PREVIEW: Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference

The 2018-19 season figures to be an exciting one for the MIAC, both on the conference level and the national level. From the returning depth of the top two programs in St. Thomas and Gustavus Adolphus to the sensational recruiting class of St. Catherine’s, talent abounds in this league.

Three schools will have new head coaches at the helm this season. Following the retirement of Bill Saxton, Reed Fujan makes his head coaching debut at St. John’s following a year as a volunteer assistant at Indiana and a stellar career as an athlete at Notre Dame. Kyllian Griffin takes over at Macalester after four years at Illinois Tech, replacing Beth Whittle, who departed for Pacific U, and Lindsay Mikkelson takes over at Augsburg following two seasons as HC at Stevens.

Here are our projected standings with previews:

MIAC WOMEN:

  1. St. Thomas – MIAC Swimmer of the Year and All-American Katelyn Strauss (60 pts., 4 relays, 500/1FL/2FL champ) is back for her senior season after taking fifth in DIII in the 200 Fly in March, and two of her three teammates who joined her on the Tommies’ Honorable Mention All-America 400 Free Relay are back as well in Kate Smarjesse (48, 4r) and Alex Howard (45, 4r). The fourth member of that relay, Tiana Molitor (45, 3r) graduated, as did Nicole Herrli (57, 2BR/2IM Champ), but they were the only two losses among the team’s top 15 scorers. Kirsten Nelson (53, 1r, 2BA champ) returns, and Kasey Ericson (43, 1r) and Gretchen Behrens (42) will look to build on great freshman seasons. The Tommies’ recruiting class doesn’t have the top-end talent of some of the other teams in the conference, but Ann Van Hout (25.59/55.05/1:59.6/5:09, 59.7/2:11 BA, 58.8 FL), Anna Astrup (1:00.7 BA, 57.85/2:19.5 FL, 2:13 IM), and Isabelle Schneider (25.65/54.34/1:57, 1:08.6/2:34 BR, 1:03.3 FL, 2:17 IM) should all be able to score significant points.
  2. Gustavus – While Gustavus and St. Thomas lost similar amounts in terms of points, the gap between the two is likely to grow this year, as the Gusties’ recruiting class just isn’t quite as strong. Kate Reilly (46 pts., 4 relays) and Kennedy Holwerda (45, 4r), Honorable Mention All-American’s on GAC’s 200 Free Relay, both graduated, but there’s plenty left in the tank for GAC, who will be led by a trio of seniors. Maggie Webster, an HM All-American in the 50 Free and 200 Free Relay and MIAC Champ in both the 50 and 100, is back for her senior season, as are Haley Pesik (46, 2r) and Sydney Hallmark (43, 1r). Alyssa Lokensgard (20, 2r) was the fourth member of the Gusties’ HM All-America 2FR, and she is back as well, but it may be difficult for them to return to nationals this year. There are no evident stars in the freshman class, but Elizabeth Speedling (1:01.29 FL, 2:17/4:47 IM) and diver Theadosia Cox should be the most ready to contribute.
  3. St. Catherine – Mary Jane Voss (40 pts., 3 relays) is gone, but Franceska Hernandez-Nietling (47, 4r) is back looking to build upon a sensational freshman season and St. Kate’s has the best recruiting class in the MIAC. Jordyn Wentzel (24.34/51.69/1:51/4:56/17:50, 58.8 BA, 1:02.4/2:15 BR, 57.1/2:04.3 FL, 2:05.6/4:33.8) already has NCAA DIII top-8 times in the breaststroke events and could win several different events as a third at the MIAC Championships while Maggie Menso (53.94/1:53/4:51.6/16:39, 2:17/4:34.9 IM) is a national champion contender in the 500 and 1650. Oh, and don’t forget fellow newcomers Hannah Svendsen (5:18.5 500, 1:00.8/2:09 BA, 1:10.7 BR, 1:02.4 FL, 2:12.2/4:34.8 IM) and Macy Klein (23.71/52.03, 1:00.7 FL), both of whom should be able to score significant points. A lack of depth will keep them from reaching the top two teams at MIACs, but St. Kate’s could score the most points at NCAAs.
  4. St. Olaf – St. Olaf returns their top four scorers and nine of their top 10 overall, with standout diver Rose Peterson – the 2018 MIAC Champ on both boards – the only key loss. Marissa Wolff (52.5 pts., 4 relays) is back after a sensational freshman season that saw her win the 200 free title, and Helen Jensen (49, 4r, 4IM champ), Linnea Rizzo (45, 2r), and NCAA-qualifier Caitlin Croasdell (42, 1r, 1650 champ) all return, too. Maya Knutson (24.66/52.47/1:55/5:08, 2:14 BA, 2:28.9 BR, 59.7 FL, 2:12/4:37 IM) is the gem of a five-woman recruiting class and should reach multiple A-finals.
  5. Carleton – Senior Caroline Mather (46.5 pts., 4 relays) is back for a final run, and graduated diver Amy Roach (32) is the only departure from the team’s top seven scorers. Ada Meyer (29, 3r) and Kyle Fraser-Mines (22, 2r) were the other two Knights to reach A-finals last season, and the team will be bolstered by a recruiting class of 13 women, highlighted by Alison Cameron (1:59.3/5:20.8 FR< 1:01.4/2:13.6 FL, 4:44.2 IM) and diver Andrea Tartaglia.
  6. St. Benedict – CSB graduated its top two scorers in Kenzie Young (30 pts., 3r) and Kristina Rudin (29, 3r), and the Bennies lost another 20 points to early departure. Talented diver Mallory Jarvi (26) is back, however, as are swimmers Lauren Christiansen (23, 1r), Ashley Groebner (18, 2r), and Claudia Mahoney (16, 2r). Ana Birklid (25.28/54.65/1:53.2/5:02/10:54, 59.48/2:08.19 BA, 2:15.74 IM) may be one of the league’s top newcomers, and Izzy Sonday (1:58.78/5:13/18:08) and Mikayla Von Wahlde (55.45 FR, 58.16 BA, 2:14 IM) both should be able to score significant points. The Bennies also have a pair of divers (Kylie Egger, Kathryn Ellingson) among their 10 freshmen.
  7. Hamline – The good news for Hamline is that backstroke standout Taylor Martinek is back for her senior year after winning the 100 Back title last year, and junior Bryce White, the team’s only other scorer at MIACs, is also back. The bad news? The Pipers lost three swimmers to graduation and four more to early departures. Among their five recruits are a pair of divers in Alexandra Lopez-Rivera and Spencer Brady, leaving just six swimmers on the roster – a thin margin to compose five relays. Alex Torgrimson (1:02.96/2:13.9 BA, 1:02.6/2:17.4 FL, 2:16.9/4:46 IM) is the best of Hamline’s newcomers.
  8. Macalester – Macalester will be battling closely with Hamline for seventh, and junior Ana Thompson (32 pts., 4 relays) will be leading the way once again. Junior diver Francesca Gillis (14) and sophomore Zoe Schopick (14) are also back, but the team does lose a pair of grads in Kaia Lund (19, 4r) and diver Molly Lloyd (9). Betsy Foy (1:09.27 BR) leads a six-woman recruiting class, which includes one diver in Lydia Yoder.
  9. Concordia-Moorhead – The Cobbers return their two multi-event scorers in senior Ciara White (7 pts., 3r) and Amy Warren (6, 4r). Last year, the difference between Concordia-Moorhead and the teams below them on this list was their relay finishes, and we don’t see that changing this year. Freshmen Abby Bartosiewski (1:03.73 FL) and Alexandra Rasmussen (1:10.2 BR) both will have a change of scoring at MIACs.
  10. Augsburg – Morgan Mangel scored Augsburg’s only three individual points at last year’s MIAC Championships, and she is one of three swimmers back this season. The return of diver Cassie Lehman, who scored 12 points at the MIACs in 2017, is what lifts the Auggies above St. Mary’s, as the team’s seven freshmen are unproven.
  11. St. Mary’s – Diver Kierra Walske (6 pts.) was the team’s lone individual scorer last year, and she’s back for her senior season. Junior Kizzy Bell (1:10.86 BR) has a chance to score in the breaststroke events.

MIAC MEN:

  1. St. Thomas – The Tommies suffered massive losses to graduation and one early departure – none bigger than 2018 MIAC Swimmer of the Year and HM All-American Bailey Biwer- and they return just 395 of their 748 individual points scored last season and 10 of 20 relay slots. That said, the Tommies’ tremendous depth makes them the best suited to deal with such losses. Seniors Tom Negaard (57 pts., 4 relays) – the 2018 MIAC Champ in both the 50 and 100 and part of St. Thomas’s NCAA-qualifying 200 Free Relay – and Maximilian Larson (52, 1r, 4IM champ) are back to lead the way, and Adam Boerner (46, 1r) returns after a strong freshman year. Joe Herrli (41) and Hunter Nielsen (41, 2r) were both 40-point scorers, as well. The Tommies will likely replace some of their 353 points lost from within, as seniors James Bussey and Jason Tri both reached multiple MIAC A-finals in 2017 before failing to make the conference roster a year ago. Bryce Hoppe, Collin Moon, and Jacob Rear are other returners who will strongly contend to score this year, and the Tommies’ 12-man freshman class is likely the top in the league from top to bottom. Logan Shafer (17:38, 2:05 BA, 57.8/2:04.1 BR, 53.9 FL, 1:57.8/4:19 IM) will be a big factor in the breaststroke and IM events, and John Gahns (1:45/4:54 FR, 51.86/1:52.84, 53.1 FL, 1:57 IM) should score big points in the backstroke events. Joey Vacura (1:46.9 200, 59.26/2:11 BR, 54.9 FL), Noah Faldet (57.36/2:18 BR, 53.9 FL), and Garrett Riley (21.33/47.89 FR) all will compete for spots as well.
  2. Gustavus Adolphus – While we still favor the Tommies to win the title, Gustavus should make it closer than it was a year ago. Tanner Sonnek, a repeat All-American in the 100 Breast (7th) and MIAC Champ in both breaststroke events, is back for his senior season to lead the way, and sophomores Nolan Larson (54 pts., 4 relays, 2IM Champ) and Josh Muntifering (48, 4r) are both back after terrific rookie campaigns. Zach Dawson (46, 1r), Ryan Sklar (44, 1r), and Riley Fairbanks (42) all broke the 40-point mark, and diver Logan Bican (33) should be one of the favorites for the league’s Diver of the Year honor. The Gusties also get a huge boost from the return of junior Matthew Allison, the 2017 MIAC Champ in the 50 Free and runner-up in both the 100 and 200 and an NCAA qualifier. If back to his 2017 form, he should make an enormous impact on GAC’s relays. Dutch Franko-Dynes (47.26/1:45.98, 55.77 BA), Luke Bergstrom (21.66 50, 1:02 BR), and Ryan Kawlewski (1:48/4:48 FR) are the best of 12 newcomers.
  3. Carleton – Sophomore Stevie Fitch (39 pts., 4 relays) is back after a breakout freshman season that saw him lead the Knights in scoring last year, while Jacob Dalluge (31, 4r) and Nick Reeves (31, 4 r) are also back. Carleton and St. Olaf will be embroiled in a neck-and-neck battle for third place once again this year where every single point will matter, but a slightly stronger recruiting class should be the difference. Adam Nik (58.52/2:12 BR, 52.1/1:59.6 FL, 4:21.8 IM) could reach A-finals in several different events, and Allen Yuan (1:49.6/4:56.4/17:09, 55.6/2:03.1 FL, 4:28 IM) should make an impact, too.
  4. St. Olaf – The Oles didn’t lose a single point or relay slot from last year’s MIAC Championships squad and return several strong scorers at the top of their lineup, highlighted by junior John Loepfe (54 pts., 4r) – the 2018 MIAC Champ in both backstroke events. Seniors Abe Casey (38, 3r), Gus Reynolds (38, 4r), and diver Leif Jorgensen Duus (32) all return, and Marcel Hones (35, 4r) is back coming off a strong freshman season. Sjon Greseth (21.74/51.72/1:47/4:41/16:32, 1:59 BA, 4:17 IM) leads a group of five St. Olaf newcomers, which also includes Ben Schaefers (53.96 FL) and Colorado College transfer Fritz Swearingen (18:02 1650).
  5. St. John’s – The Johnnies return four of their top five scorers in Mitchell Dockendorf (29 pts., 4 relays), Caleb Birklid (26, 1r), Mick Olson (22, 1r), and Jacob Upton (22, 2r), but the loss of 10 graduates and five early departures amounts to the loss of 96 of the team’s 242 individual points and eight relay slots from the 2018 MIACs. Steven Froehle (21.53/47.60) is the tops of the team’s seven newcomers, while diver Leo Braun will also be able to score.
  6. Hamline – Hamline lost the most of the teams at the bottom half of last year’s MIAC standings, as Hodd Gorman (46 pts., 4 relays) and Joe Campbell (20) both graduated. Now sophomores, Nicholas Grivna (34, 3r) and Andrew Hobar (25, 2r) are both back, as is classmate Isaac Hanson (18, 4r) and senior Adam Berg (15). Only three recruits joined the team, but Nathan Steeves (1:49.8/4:53/17:08) should be able to contribute right away.
  7. St. Mary’s – Lone scorer Griffin Rades (33 pts., 4 relays) is back after a strong freshman season, and the other good news for the Cardinals is that five newcomers gives them eight total swimmers on their roster, meaning that they should be able to compose a full five relays this season. Alex Morrow (4:26 IM) and Cole Stepanovich (57.3 BA, 4:44 IM) appear to be the freshmen most capable of scoring at MIACs.
  8. Macalester – Diver Kieran Cuddy (30 pts.) is back after a terrific freshman season, but he was the only Macalester athlete to score individual points at MIACs in 2018. Sam Gleason is back after a year away from the team, and there are five newcomers, but none appears clearly able to score immediately.

Projected Award Winners:

  • Women’s Swimmer of the Year: Jordyn Wentzel, St. Catherine’s
  • Women’s Diver of the Year: Kellie Pruitt, St. Thomas
  • Women’s Newcomer of the Year: Jordyn Wentzel, St. Catherine’s
  • Men’s Swimmer of the Year: Tanner Sonnek, Gustavus
  • Men’s Diver of the Year: Logan Bican, Gustavus
  • Men’s Newcomer of the Year: Logan Shafer, St. Thomas

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