Miami won the Mid-American Conference (MAC) Men’s Swimming and Diving Championships on Thursday night, piling up 956 points, ahead of second place Missouri State;s 899 points. It was the first title for the team since 2006.
The championships played out over four days at the Miami Recreation Center. If you think that sounds like an interminably long time to stay interested in a single sporting event, you would be wrong.
What comes to mind when you think of high-intensity sporting events? A football game going into overtime? A basketball shot on the buzzer? Bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth?
You’ve never been to a collegiate swim meet.
In such a confined space, the echoes of cheers and shouts of encouragement is overwhelming in decibels. Then there is the sudden silence that falls over the crowd right before a race begins – an unspoken rule of respect for the races about to be swum. But as soon as the starting horn blares, the din is back before the swimmers even hit the water. It only grows as the swimmers race down the last stretch of their however-many-meter race to out-touch their opponents by hundredths of seconds, and yes, every hundredth matters.
But its parents like John Garman, whose son, Reilly, swims for Southern Illinois University (SIU), who make these events more meaningful than the times and scores.
“My wife and I, we’ve been driving two hours from Indiana, back-and-forth, but we’re staying tonight,” Garman said on Wednesday. “With it being his [Reilly’s] senior year, we try to make it out as much as possible.” That means traveling anywhere from two to four hours, sometimes more, to see a meet.
On Wednesday, Garman was able to see his son swim a career-best in the 200-yard freestyle, narrowly missing first place by .07 seconds, finishing in 1:36.80. Look at that margin again -- .07 seconds – you can’t dot an “i” that fast.
Miami’s men’s team was projected to take second place to Missouri State, but set out to prove the projections wrong.
Monday night’s competitions landed Miami in first place with 80 points and a 12-point lead over second place Missouri State. Miami also broke three school records and one MAC record.
In the 200-yard medley relay, junior Jacob Peloquin, sophomore Noah Barr, junior Iago Moussalem and junior Nick Ward finished in first place and broke the previous school record with a time of 1:25.99.
In the 800-yard free relay, junior Diego Valentim, sophomore Gordon Wheeler, senior James Wray and Moussalem took home the first-place medal with a time of 6:31.32; beating a school record they set a year ago at the 2018 MAC Championship.
Sophomore Kayky Mota’s time trial of the 100-fly in 45.99 seconds bested himself as the time broke both a school record and a MAC record he had set earlier in the year.
Tuesday’s events allowed Missouri State to close the lead on Miami, but the RedHawks stayed ahead by three points, 326 to 323.
In the one-meter diving competition, Miami thrived, as all three RedHawks participants, senior Harrison Moncino, senior Ryan Nash, and sophomore Sam Wiedemann qualified for finals finishing first, second and fifth, respectively.
That would be Miami’s only first place finish of the day.
In the 200-individual medley, Mota finished second with a time of 1:46.99, again breaking another school record. In the 200 free relay, Wamsley, Ward, Peloquin and Moussalem finished second with a time of 1:20.23. Finally, in the 500-free, Wheeler finished with a time of 4:25.23, earning himself a third-place finish.
The RedHawks momentum carried over into day three of competitions as the team improved its lead over Missouri State, 623.5 to 599, with Southern Illinois the next closest with only 382.5 points.
Miami took home the MAC Championship for the 400-individual medley, as sophomore James McGuire swam a time of 3:50.84, with Mota finishing only .11 seconds behind him in second place. McGuire’s time broke another school record for the RedHawks.
In the 100-backstroke event, Miami captured its second MAC Championship of the day with Peloquin at a time of 47.87 seconds, another broken school record. Right on his tail was senior Jake Precious in third and Wray in a tie for fourth.
Moussalem took first place in the 100-butterfly at 46.37 seconds, with Peloquin taking third and sophomore Spencer Klinsky snagging fourth at 47.98.
The third school record broken by Miami was carried out in the 400-medley relay featuring Peloquin, Barr, Mota and Ward in 3:10.85,taking second place.
In the 200-free, the RedHawks occupied five of the eight placements. Lead by Wheeler in third place at 1:37.37, Valentim in fourth, Wamsley in fifth, Ward in seventh, and Moussalem taking the eighth spot at 1:44.06.
The final placement of the day came in the 100-breast event by Barr, who finished third with an official time of 53.91 seconds. Miami’s team aims to close out the championships in first place, where it has stayed since the beginning.