Seas of black and gold and green and white streamed into the Oakland Aquatic Center as the Golden Grizzlies clashed with the Michigan State Spartans during a dual swimming and diving meet on Saturday, Jan 21.
Despite Oakland’s efforts, the Spartans emerged victorious, defeating Oakland’s women’s team 157-143 and its men’s 165-133.
The senior day defeat was the men’s first home dual-meet loss to the Spartans since 2002.
Oakland’s Paul Huch won the 100 freestyle and backstroke, while also placing runner-up in the 200 medley relay. Huch was also on the winning 400 freestyle relay, accompanied by teammates Tony Eriksson, Andrew Binder and Jeremiah Morren.
Morren went on to take first place in the 50 free with a time of 20.55 seconds.
Building on the men’s accomplishments, Joe Smith won the 3-meter boards at 346.80 and Tuomas Kiviluoma took first place in the 100 butterfly in 49.06 seconds.
Oakland’s women’s teams earned similar accolades.
Takara Martin won both the 100 and 200 breaststroke with times of 1:03.96 and 2:20.39, respectively. Krissy Harmon won the 1,000 free, finishing at 10:23.47, and Holly Morren secured the 100 free at 50.62.
Patricia Aschan bagged additional points for Oakland by winning the 200-yard backstroke, 200 freestyle and 200 IM.
Ultimately, four seniors from Oakland earned individual event wins.
“We had a lot of good things to take away from today’s meet,” said Pete Hovland, head swim and dive coach. “We don’t want to be content with losing, but our relays were firing on all cylinders, and our seniors really stepped up.”
Hovland focused on the senior’s contributions.
“The fact that we have 16 seniors graduating today — eight women and eight men — really says a lot about the culture of our program,” he said. “I wanted to make sure the freshmen, sophomores and juniors really understood what it means to say goodbye to these individuals.”
Kiviluoma, a senior athlete hailing from Espoo, Finland, reflected on his past four years on the team.
“For me, being an international athlete has been something spectacular,” Kiviluoma said. “In Finland, swimming is a very individualized sport, and here it is all about the team. Having this team atmosphere at Oakland — all this tradition and winning culture we have — has definitely helped me grow as an adult and get along with people better.”
Upon graduating, Kiviluoma anticipates remaining in the U.S. to not only pursue a career, but also to soak up as much culture as possible.
Echoing Kiviluoma’s sentiments, Martin celebrated the comradery she experienced as a student-athlete.
“Being a senior, this day came a lot faster than I wish it did,” Martin said. “Coming here [from Ontario, Canada,] really taught me how having a bad day doesn’t just affect me, the same as having a good day doesn’t just affect me. Becoming a team captain and learning how to lead others in different ways has been tremendous.”
With the loss against Michigan State behind them, the Golden Grizzlies are now preparing for their next meet at 5 p.m. ET on Friday, Jan. 27 at Cleveland State University.