Success Drives Teams to Greater Heights and More Championships

Oakland University’s swimming and diving teams were at it again in 2002-03 winning their fourth consecutive Mid-Con Championships, the women’s second consecutive National Independent Conference Championship, and the men claiming title to one of the top thirty programs in the country.  And that’s just the beginning.

The year was the most successful year for the swimming and diving program at Oakland since the school turned Division I four years ago.  Both teams were represented at the prestigious NCAA Championships – senior Danielle Ward (Brighton, Michigan) represented the women’s side while swimmers Chris Sullivan (Rockford, Michigan), Scott Dickens (Ancaster, Ontario), Eric Lynn (Plymouth, Michigan), Doug Drazin (West Bloomfield, Michigan), and Sean Broadbent (Windsor, Ontario) represented the men’s side.  The combination of male swimmers earned Oakland 17 points while breaking three school records and finishing 27th in the country.

2002-03 got underway with Oakland hosting the Quadrangular meet the last weekend in October.  The women’s team went 4-0 defeating all four teams – West Virginia, Wayne State, Akron, and Niagara – while the men’s team also went undefeated beating West Virginia, Niagara, and Wayne State.  Although both teams then fell to the Bearcats of Cincinnati in their next match-up, the teams rebounded to defeat Wright State by scores of 129-103 (W) and 158-83 (M).

Oakland’s women’s team was then playing host to Illinois where the team fell by a score of 173-123.  The next weekend against Toledo, the women’s team edged the Rockets 165-135 while the men were defeated 124.5-155.5.  Eastern Michigan then traveled to Rochester to swim against the women’s team and the meet was intense as the Golden Grizzlies dropped a close score of 146-154 to the intrastate rivals.

Heading into the Mid-Con Championships, the women’s dual meet record stood at 6-3 while the men’s record prevailed at 4-2.  Both teams hosted the Mid-Con Championships at the OU Aquatics Center and both teams were looking to defend their titles for the fourth consecutive year.

Mid-Con records fell as Oakland broke seven records and won all but six events.  Highlighting the meet was freshman breaststroker Dickens who was named both Newcomer of the Year and Co-Athlete of the Year for his performances at the Championships. Dickens broke two Mid-Con records in both the 100 (55.56) and 200 (2:00.92) breaststroke, and also won the 200 individual medley (1:53.00).

Also collecting Mid-Con accolades was junior Tanya Korniyenko (Almaty, Kazakhstan). Korniyenko set new records in the 100 (57.22) and 200 (2:03.46) butterfly events, and took home first place in the 200 individual medley (2:08.69) on her way to being tabbed Mid-Con Athlete of the Year.

Freshman diver, Linda Keskey (Cokato, Michigan) was named Mid-Con Diver of the Year after winning both the 1-meter (390.40) and 3-meter (479.10) diving events while head coach Pete Hovland was titled Men’s Co-Coach of the Year.

Also breaking records during the meet was Angela Simetkosky (Livonia, Mich.) who won both long distance freestyle events setting new Mid-Con records in the 1650 freestyle (17:08.66) and 500 freestyle (4:59.29).  And teammate Ward who crushed the old 200 free record with a new time of 1:53.14.

As a result of their performances, the Golden Grizzlies swept both titles outscoring the competition by a minimum of 182 points.  A total of twenty-seven swimmers from Oakland were recognized by the Mid-Con on the men's and women’s first and second All-Mid-Con teams.

Next on the Golden Grizzlies schedule was a spring break trip to Florida where the team competed against Washington at the Florida Atlantic Invite.  The Grizzlies dropped the meet against the Huskies by a margin of 153-52. 

Both teams were back in action at the OU Aquatics Center on January 10th against the men’s 23-time and women’s 18-time NCAA Division III National Champions Kenyon College.  The Grizzlies men’s team defeated the Lords by a score of 124-81 while the women’s team defeated the Ladies 142-90.

Oakland’s men’s and women’s teams then got two wins against two Big Ten teams who traveled to Rochester to face the Grizzlies in dual meet action.   The Golden Grizzlies women’s team faced the RedHawks of Miami and swam to a score of 168-125 to take the win and improve their dual meet record to 8-4.  The Spartans of Michigan State were the next victims of the Grizzlies as the men’s team won a close meet by a margin of 124.5-117.5 to put their dual meet record at 8-5.

Oakland’s Aquatic Center continued to be a hot spot for the Golden Grizzlies swimming and diving teams as the men’s team defeated Notre Dame on Feb. 8th.  The team took a 151-149 victory in an exciting meet which came down to the 400 free relay where Oakland had to take first and third in order to win the meet. A relay team of Broadbent, Mike Parrish (Birmingham, Mich.), Chris Lutz (Rochester, Mich.), and Sullivan led the way for the Grizzlies finishing the race in first place with a time of 3:05.49.

The race came down to the last leg of the relay and Sullivan started over a body length behind the Irish swimmer. A sprint freestyle specialist, Sullivan managed to out swim the competition and hit the wall in time to give the Grizzlies the victory. Finishing in third place for Oakland in the relay was a combination team of Lynn, Doug Fiore (Shelby Township, Mich.), Blaine Dolcetti (Sault Ste. Marie, Ont.), and Drazin (West Bloomfield, Mich.) in a time of 3:08.08.

Oakland then played host to its last meet of the year – the National Independent Conference Championships.  The women’s team was out to capture their second consecutive NIC title while the men’s team looked to improve on their 2002 third place finish. 

Throughout the meet, both teams managed to set a total of 26 records.  The women set six pool, eight school, and two NIC records while the men’s team broke one pool and nine school records. 

The meet got underway on day one with the women’s 200 medley relay setting a new pool and school record of 1:43.43.  The 800 free relay was on the same page as the relay team of Line Jensen (Silkeborg, Denmark), Karoline Freytag (Kronach, Germany), Holly Miller (Ft. Lauderdale, Florida), and Ward set a new pool record in a time of 7:26.57.

Day two of the meet saw the Golden Grizzlies set five new records.  Sullivan swam the 50 free as part of the 200 free relay in a split-time of 19.63 – the fastest time swam during the day and the time that would set new school, NIC, and pool records.  The women’s 200 individual medley race was another record setting event as freshman Jensen set a school record at 2:02.38.

Also breaking individual records was Dickens who finished the 200 IM in a school record setting 1:49.06 and in third place.  The women’s relay team of Oksana Strelets (Kazakhstan), Jensen, Freytag, and Ward set a new NIC, pool, and school record in their 200 free relay finish with a time of 1:32.62.  On the men’s side, the relay was led by Sullivan and finished by Dickens, Drazin and Broadbent in a time of 1:19.71 to set a new school record for Oakland University.

During day three of the NICs at the OU Aquatics Center, the Golden Grizzlies took five school records, one NIC record, and one pool record.  Korniyenko started the evening for the Grizzlies by setting a new pool and school record in the 100 fly, beating her old records by two hundredths of a second, with a time of 55.16.  Jensen then broke another individual school record in the 400 individual medley with a time of 4:24.77.

The next school record to be broken on the evening was Andrew Coupland’s (Ottawa, Ont.) time of 1:37.80 in the 200 freestyle.  Fellow freshman Dickens then made the NCAA qualifying time in the 100 breast swimming the final in a school record time of 54.17.

During the men’s 400 medley relay, the Golden Grizzlies combined to finish in a school record setting pace of 3:17.39. The record broke the old school record of 3:18.40 set in 1992 by 1.01 seconds.

Capturing the title of the 100 free and finishing day four of the meet with a bang was senior WardWard swam the event in a new school record time of 50.06 - the time that qualified Ward for the NCAA Championships that was to be held March 20-22 at Auburn.

Sullivan wasn’t finished breaking records either as he swam a leg in the 400 freestyle relay, recording a split time of 43.27. This time gave Sullivan his second NCAA qualifying time of the meet and set new NIC, pool, and school records.

Korniyenko, who was tabbed the 2003 NIC Swimmer of the Year, took the 200 fly in fine form hitting the wall at 2:00.08 to set a new school, and pool record.  The final race of the evening, the 200 free, saw Ward, Jensen, Freytag, and Strelets combine to break school, pool and NIC records with a time of 3:21.23.  As a result, the win enabled Oakland to become back-to-back NIC Champions defeating Northern Arizona by a one point margin.

The men’s 200 freestyle race was also a record breaker as a relay team of Sullivan, Coupland, Dickens and Broadbent set a new school record with a time of 2:56.65.  The men managed to finish the meet in fourth place out of seven teams and with a total of 528 points.

On the week of March 20th-22nd, Ward competed in the women’s NCAA Championships at AuburnWard qualified to compete in the 100 and 200 freestyle events against more than 70 competitors.  She swam the 200 free event with a time of 1:50.88, which placed Ward 54th in a field of 58. In the 100 freestyle, she finished in the top half of the field hitting the wall at 50.44 seconds. In a race that saw 72 competitors swim, Ward's time ranked her 35th in the meet.

The men’s NCAA Championships were the following weekend at Texas.  The team of Lynn, Dickens, Broadbent, Sullivan, and Drazin represented Oakland at the championships with head coach Hovland and assistant coaches Jon Teal and Ernie Maglischo.

The meet got underway on March 27th where Grizzlies Sullivan, Lynn, Drazin, and Broadbent teamed up for the 200 freestyle relay. The foursome kicked out a time of 1:19.47 in the prelims to finish 11th, qualifying for the consolation final in the evening. The time broke the school record in the event that was set earlier in the year by the same team. The foursome also swam in the 400 medley relay during the morning and placed 16th with a time of 3:18.74.

Also swimming in the morning's preliminaries were freshman Dickens and sophomore Sullivan who competed in the 200 individual medley and 50 freestyle events. Dickens swam the 200 IM in a time of 1:50.71, which placed him 40th in the heat. Sprinter Sullivan hit the wall at 19.81 in the 50 free after a rough start on the blocks. Sullivan's time placed him 18th and .02 seconds out of evening competition.

In the finals, the relay team disqualified in the 200 free relay, but in the 400 medley race the quad improved on their morning's performance and finished with a time of 3:17.76 and again in 16th place. The finish gave Oakland two points - Oakland's first ever points in NCAA competition.

Day two of the championships saw Oakland receive more points and move higher up the national hierarchy. The 200 medley relay team consisting of Lynn, Dickens, Sullivan, and Broadbent finished 15th both in the preliminaries and finals with times of 1:29.69 and 1:29.85 respectively.

Sullivan and Dickens were both competing in individual events once again and Dickens would score points for the Grizzlies in the 100 breaststroke. The breaststroke specialist swam a time of 53.95 in the prelims breaking his old school record by more than two tenths of a second and finishing in ninth place - eight hundredths of a second out of the final top eight. In the consolation final Dickens would again set new standards for the 100 breast, hitting the wall at 53.79 in tenth place. Sullivan was in action in the 100-butterfly event that saw more than 40 swimmers vying for a spot in the finals. Sullivan cranked out a season best time of 48.41 tying him for 30th and out of finals competition by 1.2 seconds.

In day three of the prestigious meet the relay team was again in action, competing in the 400 freestyle relay event. The team of Sullivan, Broadbent, Dickens, and Drazin swam the preliminaries in 19th place recording a time of 3:02.16.

Both Sullivan and Dickens were back in action as well and both swam in the consolation finals heat in their respective events. Sullivan swam the 100 freestyle event in 43.64 seconds, placing 14th. In the finals, Sullivan moved down one notch to 15th place in a time of 43.96.

Dickens continued to break records as the freshman smashed a 16-year-old school record set by Mark VanderMey in the 200 breaststroke. Dickens broke the previous record (1:58.77) by more than a second during the preliminaries with a time of 1:57.62 and in 16th place. During the consolation final, he moved up to 15th place with a time of 1:58.18.

Oakland finished the meet with 17 points, a school record, and broke three swimming marks. The 17 points placed the team 27th in the country – the highest in school history.

Over the 2002-03 year, both the men’s and women’s swimming and diving teams reached higher standards and met greater goals.  Goals that were set at the beginning of the year by Hovland were accomplished - the women’s team consecutively claimed title to the NIC Championships and the men’s team is a top thirty program in the country. And with all the youth and talent on the team, Oakland is bound to keep moving up on the national scale.


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