2003-04 A Record Year in Swimming & Diving

Oakland's swimming and diving teams achieved greater successes in 2003-04 as the two teams captured their fifth consecutive Mid-Con Championship titles, the women's third consecutive National Independent Conference Championship, and both program's sent swimmers to the NCAA Championships for the second consecutive year.  In addition to those accomplishments, the times in the water for the swimmers are getting quicker every year as a total of seventeen records were broken throughout the season - four pool records, three school records, eight Mid-Con records, and two NIC records.   

It wasn't until the end of October until the Golden Grizzlies had its first dual meet competition hosting the annual Quadrangular meets against West Virginia, Akron, and Wayne State.  The women's team was undefeated against all three teams taking Akron 124-119, West Virginia 153-90, and Wayne State 202-41.  On the men's side, Oakland defeated Wayne State 161-80 before falling to West Virginia 153-90.

Highlighting the meet for the men were Golden Grizzlies Chris Sullivan (Rockford, Mich.), Nick McCollum (Fairield, Ohio), Mohamed Awad (Cairo, Egypt), Blaine Dolcetti (Sault Ste. Marie, Ont.), and Hunor Ma'te' (Hungary) - each of who came away with individual victories.  In total, four Golden Grizzlies from the women's team hit the wall in first place in individual events. Junior Oksana Strelets (Kazakhstan) dominated the freestyle events hitting the wall first in both the 50 free (24.39) and 100 free (52.62). Freshman Melissa Jaeger (Ann Arbor, Mich.) edged out senior Tanya Korniyenko (Almaty, Kazakhstan) by three tenths of a second to capture the 200 IM (2:08.70; 2:09.00) while Line Jensen (Silkeborg, Denmark) took the 200 free (1:54.84) and senior Shelley Aurit (Batavia, Ill.) swam a time of 2:23.72 to take the 200 breast.

Oakland's women's squad continued to dominate in the waters entering the Mid-Continent Conference Championships on December 4-6 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  The team entered the championships with an undefeated 7-0 record sweeping Wright State, Cincinnati, Toledo and Northern Michigan.  In men's competition, the Golden Grizzlies entered the Mid-Con Championships with a 3-1 record having recorded wins over both Wright State and Cincinnati.

Before the championships began, three swimmers and one diver were recognized by the Mid-Con for their outstanding efforts during competition.  Strelets, Korniyenko, and Sullivan were all tabbed Mid-Con Athletes of the Week for their swimming performances while freshman diver Liz Herrington (Battle Creek, Mich.) was named Athlete of the Week for her performances on the boards. 

At the Mid-Con Championships the Golden Grizzlies dominated the meet taking its fifth championship titles in as many seasons since joining the Mid-Con.  The men's team finished with a total of 935 points, outdistancing second-place Western Illinois who had 680 while the women's team reached the 1,000 point mark for the fifth straight year finishing with 1,057 points.  The team won by more than 400 points as IUPUI finished runner-up with 630. 

Eight records were broken by Oakland during the championships while 36 events of 40 were taken by the Golden Grizzlies.  Highlighting the meet and setting new records on the men's side was freshman Ma'te', who took the 100 breast in a record-setting time of 54.55.

On the women's side, Korniyenko swept both butterfly events taking the 100 fly in a time of 54.57 and the 200 fly in 1:59.41 (which also set a new school record at that time).  The women's relay squads were busy breaking records in each the 400 and 800 free, and 200 and 400 medley relays.  The quad of Jensen, Jenna DeJonge (Zeeland, Mich.), Karoline Freytag (Kronach, Germany), and Angela Simetkosky (Livonia, Mich.) set a new league time in the 400 freestyle hitting the wall at 3:28.35.  Also setting a new record and crashing the 11-year old record in the 800 free was Jensen, Korniyenko, Freytag and Simetkosky who finished the race in 7:36.05.  During that race Jensen also became a record holder in the 200 freestyle after swimming the lead off leg in a time of 1:53.13.

Strelets, Aurit, Korniyenko and DeJonge combined to take the 200 medley relay and set a new record with a time of 1:46.72 while Tara Berringer (Eugene, Ore.), Lindsey Unrath (Dexter, Mich.) Korniyenko and Strelets broke the 11-year old record in the 400 medley relay with a time of 3:51.55.  At the conclusion of the meet, Korniyenko was named the Mid-Con's Women's Swimmer of the Year for the second straight year while sophomore diver Linda Keskey (Cokato, Min.) took her second straight Mid-Con Diver of the Year award after sweeping both the one and three-meter events.  Freshman Amanda Burwell (Akron, Ohio) was tabbed Mid-Con Women's Newcomer of the Year while Ma'te' took the same accolade on the men's side.  Sullivan also took the Mid-Con Men's Swimmer of the Year honor and head coach Pete Hovland was named the Mid-Con Men's Coach of the year for the fourth time in five seasons.  After the month of December, Korniyenko was hit with another honor from the Mid-Con being tabbed the Mid-Con's Athlete of the Month for her performances.

Next up for both teams was dual meet competition against Eastern Michigan where the women's team continued its unbeaten streak (8-0) and defeated the Eagles 137-106.  The men's team dropped the meet falling to Eastern by a score of 165-78.  For her efforts during this meet, Strelets was named the Mid-Con's Athlete of the Week.

Both teams then traveled to Gambier, Ohio to take on Kenyon College before playing host to the Bonnies of Saint Bonaventure on the last weekend of January.  Both teams took wins in the waters with the men's team taking the Lords by a score of 150-138 and the Bonnies 169-120 to improve its season record to 5-2.  The women's team kept its undefeated record alive and improved to 10-0 with a 165-135 win over the Ladies and a 169-129 win over the Bonnies.  Nick McCollum (Fairfield, Ohio) and Burwell were selected as the Mid-Con's choices for Athlete's of the Week for their respective performances.

Oakland's last two meets before the National Independent Conference Championships were against Michigan State and Notre Dame where both the Spartans and Fighting Irish handed the Golden Grizzlies losses.  The Spartans gave the women's team its first beating of the year taking the meet in East Lansing by a score of 131-110 while the Irish took the victory by a score of 176-117.  After the two meets, the Golden Grizzlies had finished its dual meet competition for the season and finished with a very respective 10-2 record.  The men's team finished the season 5-4 after struggling against both the Spartans (145-97) and Fighting Irish (183-103). 

After nearly a month of preparation Oakland's pool opened up to host the National Independent Conference Championships - hosting eight schools from across the country.  The women's team ran away with its third consecutive title taking the victory with a score of 918 while the men's team improved over its 2003 showing and finished in third with 536 points.  Highlighting day one of competition was the women's 200 medley squad of Berringer, Maria Musialczyk (Grand Rapids, Mich.), Korniyenko and Strelets who led the meet setting a new school and pool record in the 200 medley relay with a time of 1:43.03. 

During day two of the meet, Strelets took home the Golden Grizzlies sole individual title taking the 50 free in a time of 23.15.  She would then also share the top spot in the 100 free hitting the wall at 50.34 along with Gardner-Webb's Ellie Weberg on the last day of competition.  Korniyenko set precedence during day three of the meet where she took the 100 fly in a time of 54.28 to set a new school and pool record in the event.  Finishing second and third in the 100 fly were teammates Strelets and Jaeger who finished at 55.68 and 55.69.  On the diving boards it was Keskey who would edge out teammate Herrington on the three-meter boards.  Keskey finished first with a score of 444.85 while Herrington was a close second with 438.45.  The Golden Grizzlies finished day three in the lead over Northern Arizona 605.5-582.5.

On the final day of competition at the NICs, Korniyenko set her second pool and school record of the meet while also setting a new NIC record in the 200 fly.  Korniyenko took the event in a time of 2:00.08 while Jeager touched second at 2:01.32.  At the end of the night Korniyenko was awarded women's NIC Swimmer of the Year as the Golden Grizzlies swam away with the title.

As a result of their performances at the NIC Championships and throughout the year, four Oakland swimmers were invited to the prestigious NCAA Championships.  Sullivan and Ma'te' qualified for the men's championships, which were held in Long Island, N.Y., while seniors Korniyenko and Strelets were invited to College Station, Texas for the women's championships. 

On March 18th the women's championships began with Korniyenko and Strelets both competing.  Korniyenko hit the wall with a time of 2:19.00 to finish 65th out of a group of 69 in the 200 IM while Strelets competed in the 50-meter freestyle and hit the wall at 25.97. She managed to outswim 23 competitors to finish 48th out of a pool of 71.  Since 2004 is an Olympic year, all events at both the men's and women's championships were swum in meters as opposed to yards.

Korniyenko added to her long list of career accomplishments on day two of the championships where she was named an All-American in the 100-meter fly.  After placing 16th in the preliminaries, Korniyenko swam in the finals and finished 15th with a time of 1:00.12.  Both Korniyenko and Strelets concluded competition at the meet on Saturday, March 20th with Korniyenko swimming the 200-meter fly (2:13.42) to finish 23rd and Strelets swimming the 100-meter free (56.72) to place 55th.

During the weekend of March 25-27 Sullivan and Ma'te' traveled to New York for the men's competition.  Sullivan swam on day one of the meet and placed 19th - just out of the finals - in the 50-meter free with a time of 22.20.  On day two Ma'te' made his debut and took on the nation in the 100-meter breast.  Ma'te' finished 37th with a time of 1:02.78.  Sullivan was also in action on day two in the 100-meter fly and swam a time of 54.66 to finish in 33rd place.

Closing out the meet was Sullivan who was in action in the 100-meter freestyle.  Swimming against a pool of 59 competitors, Sullivan managed to finish in the top half and placed 28th with a time of 49.35.

As the 2003-04 season came to a rest, Oakland was able to reflect upon a year full of successes and championships.  As the program continues to move upward and climb the national scale, the Golden Grizzlies continue to improve and bring to Oakland much pride as a winning team. 

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