Every OAC school fears late February because there is a wall of banners in the Johnson Natatorium that tells them to fear John Carroll University come OAC tournament time.
The women’s swimming and diving team sits in third place behind Ohio Northern (4-0 OAC) and Baldwin-Wallace (3-1 OAC).
The men’s team sits in fourth place behind ONU (4-0), B-W (3-1) and Mount Union (2-2).
Both teams have uphill battles to claim yet another OAC title in 2007.
This season the OAC tournament will be held at the University of Akron, rather than at JCU where it has been held in recent years.
“Not having the fan base that we have had in the past will be different,” sophomore Ryan Flaherty said, “but the differences in the pools will be minor.”
The most signicicant change that comes with swimming at Akron is the addition of two extra lanes. This equates to eight swimmers to a heat, not six like at JCU. This change will allow for two more swimmers to score in each event.
“The bigger pool will utilize our depth,” Griffin said, “it gives us two more opportunities to score.”
The JCU women come into the tournament as the defending OAC champions and have a strong, deep roster that gives them an excellent opportunity to capture their 20th OAC title.
“Being able to defend our title adds excitement to the meet,” Griffin said, “it gives us added motivation to win it again.”
The JCU ladies received some generous seeds for the meet. Leading the way are freshman Liana Sved, sophomores Heather Gilmour, Kim Kern and Andrea Kovacs. Sved, Kern and Kovacs earned multiple top eight seeds. Gilmour, the 2006 OAC swimmer of the year, has been strong in middle and long distance and earned herself three top eight seeds including the top seed in the 1650 yard freestyle.
The team’s depth will be influential in the overall outcome. It is important that JCU receive points from all of their swimmers, not just their top performers.
The women’s team will benefit from their depth. This allows for any swimmer to contribute at any time. This will be very important when the extra two scoring spots are determined this weekend.
“Our depth helps us win a lot of meets,” junior Kaitlin Griffin added, “it will be more important with a wider pool.”
The men’s team has a different makeup than the women’s squad. They rely on their top talent to grab high finishes and scores, rather than a deep finish grabbing many lower scoring spots.
The lack of depth reflects on the team’s record, although it is not an accurate measure of the team’s talent.
“Our depth doesn’t set our team up for dual meets,” Flaherty said, “when we are tapered down we have enough people to perform well.”
Along with Flaherty the team is led by sophomore Mike Beran, junior Ehren Eschmann and senior Ben White. Beran and Flaherty each grabbed two top eight seeds while Eschmann and White each received four top eight seeds.
“With so many top eight seeds we have a great opportunity to score in the finals,” Flaherty said.
JCU’s final meet of the season was a huge 115-64 victory over Oberlin College. The men are hoping to ride the wave of the recent victory to a strong showing at the OAC tournament.
“It was definitely a confidence boost for us,” Flaherty added, “it showed us where we are coming into the tournament.”
One aspect the men will benefit from is a deep diving core, something the women cannot claim. JCU’s lone female diver, freshman Lauren Singley, was injured and will not be able to compete. The men, however, have four divers, this provides an excellent opportunity to steal points. “Our extra divers give us an added opportunity for scoring,” Flaherty said.
Both teams are poised to win another OAC title and yet another banner to the wall at JCU.