Swimming into victory

By Melissa Deatsch

Oakland men’s and women’s swimming and diving teams defended their conference titles this past weekend at the Horizon League championship meet at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

The men’s team finished the four-day event with 813 points − 189 points ahead of the runner-up Milwaukee Panthers. The women’s team finished 235 points ahead of the second place Panthers with 842 points. 

Sophomore Patricia Aschan scored an event-best 60 points for the Grizzlies with wins in the 200-yard individual medley, 400-yard individual medley and 200-yard butterfly. 

Junior Jorden Merrilees set League and Championship records with his winning times in the 500-yard freestyle, 400-yard individual medley and 200-yard backstroke, individually. 

The 800 freestyle relay team of Merrilees, Andrew Binder, Tuomas Kiviluoma and Jacob Pearson set an Oakland and Horizon League record with a time of 6:29.64. 

Tricia Grant was awarded women’s diver of the meet.  Merrilees was named men’s swimmer of the meet as well as men’s swimmer of the year, while Aschan was named both women’s swimmer of the meet and of the year. 

This is the 37th straight conference championship for the men and 21st straight for the women. 

Winning has become quite a habit for the Oakland Swim and Dive program, but head coach Pete Havland, who received the honor of men’s and women’s swimming coach of the year, says that’s not how the team looks at it. 

“Its not something we talk about often,” says Havland. 

“We focus on the task at hand − being the best you can be in the here and now.” 

Havland said the goal is for each athlete is to work hard and improve every year. 

With the focus on that, championships take care of themselves. 

While individual performances impressed many this week, Havland insists it was a team effort. 

“When you have individuals performing at a high level and receiving those accolades, it generally means it went well for the entire team,” Havland said. 

“You need those individuals to lead and encourage others to perform at their best and we certainly had that.” 

The trophies mark the 5th and 6th Horizon League titles for all of the Oakland Athletic teams since joining the conference in 2013. 

The team returns to action on Friday, March 6 in Colombus, Ohio at the NCAA Zone C diving meet.