By Zach Seastedt
The UNO swim team held on to their first-day lead to clinch the Mutual of Omaha Invite for the fifth straight year Saturday evening at the HPER pool. The Mavs earned the top spot after beating second place University of Colorado-Boulder by more than 1,000 points. UNO had 1,851 points while Colorado-Boulder had 655 and third place Morningside College had 483.
“This one we wanted to see where our swimmers are at and see if we’ll be competitive at the end of the season,” head coach Todd Samland said. “And this year we are. I thought we did better than I thought we were going to do, I was real happy with that. I thought we would swim the distance events better than we did, it’s something we have to work on. The 200-yard backstroke, 200-yard breaststroke and 200-yard butterfly, they have to come. Just needs some coaching focus, that’s all.”
The Mavs had 855 points after the first day, 441 more than the University of Northern Iowa. Junior Cait Hopkins paced UNO on the first day with two first-place finishes. The Omaha Marian graduate won the 50-yard freestyle in 24.36 and the 200-yard freestyle in 1:53.96.
“Cait’s done a really good job working hard through the summer and staying focused on what she wants to accomplish,” Samland said. “Her teammate Lucy [Zamecnik] right behind her was right there in the 50 and 200, they were goin at it. It wasn’t just like Cait was going at it by herself, they were definitely working each other. It was good to see, I thought.”
The Mavs dominated the freestyle throughout the event. UNO placed the top five swimmers in the 50-yard freestyle and the 200-yard freestyle, and placed four of the top five in the 500-yard freestyle.
“If that’s where were going to score points, that’s where were going to score points,” Samland said. “It’s great for our conference, but we need to make sure we have more balance. We have to make sure we have good races in the other ones, too. They don’t have to be the fastest or the best but they definitely have to be competitive. It’s something we have to work on a little bit.”
The Mavs built a strong lead on the first day with many solid performances. Three Mavs placed in the top four of the 100-yard butterfly, led by junior Sara Hallgren’s second place finish. UNO also won the 400-yard medley relay with a time of 4:01.62, 13 seconds ahead of the second-place team.
UNO kicked off the second night of the event with a first-place finish in the 200-yard medley relay. Freshman Cami Hansberry, junior Laura Kemp, Hallgren and Hopkins finished with a time of 1:52.35, almost four seconds before Colorado-Boulder.
Kemp led the Mavs on day two with two first-place finishes. She won the 200-yard individual medley with a time of 2:11.91, more than five seconds ahead of teammate freshman Mattie Fosbender. Kemp also won the 200-yard breaststroke with a final time of 2:29.31.
The Mavs had dominating performances in a variety of races on Saturday. UNO placed the top five swimmers in the 200-yard individual medley, the top three in the 500-yard freestyle, four of the top five in the 100-yard backstroke, the top four in the 200-yard breaststroke, four of the top five in the 100-yard freestyle and the top three in the 200-yard butterfly.
“The underclassmen still have a little ways to go, but they’re going down the right trail,” Samland said. “Our juniors swam really well in comparison to last year, and that’s how we look at it a little bit.”
The victory for Samland’s team goes a long way toward preparing them for the upcoming schedule.
“The [Mutual of Omaha] Invite offers an opportunity to see where we’re at in the middle of the season,” Samland said. “It’s more than a dual meet, allows us to get used to the format we swim at in conference championships and nationals, where there’s preliminaries in the morning and finals at night. We feel we have an awesome facility that can host this kind of an event, and its comfortable. It’s not an issue for spectators. It’s just a great facility and a great time to see where were at.”
The Mavs will have more than month’s time away from the pool before they compete against Minnesota State-Mankato in Mankato, Minn., on Jan. 15. The next day they will compete against Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls, Iowa.
“We got a break right now so we’ll train hard the next month and a half,” Samland said. “We’re starting to think about Mankato already, they’re a good Division II program. We need to train well and focus on studying right now with the team getting ready for finals. We’ll give them time to recharge, to not be totally about competition.