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SMC Swimming: Belles prepare for DePauw Invitational meet

Bill Brink | Friday, December 1, 2006

Halfway through a season filled with great individual success, the Belles will compete today and Saturday in the DePauw Invitational, a 10-team meet hosted by DePauw University.

The Belles have four swimmers who hold one of the top-10 fastest times to date in their events. Sophomore Melissa Gerbeth ranks first out of 20 swimmers in the 1,650-yard freestyle with a time of 11:04.

“It’s a sign I’m making progression in the right direction,” she said. “Now I just have to get first at the meet and then I will be happy.”

Gerbeth is also ranked second in the 500 free and sixth in the 200 free.

Freshman Sara Niemann ranks sixth in the 200-yard backstroke and ninth in the 200 free. Freshman Lindsey Nelis holds the seventh fastest time in the 200 free and 10th fastest in the 500 free. Freshman Kayla Ferguson is ranked seventh in both the 200-yard individual medley and the 100-yard backstroke.

In a large meet like this, preliminary morning races allow 16 swimmers to qualify for evening finals. The fastest eight swimmers go to the finals, and swimmers nine through 16 go to consolation races. The preliminary races are the most important.

“The prelim swims are crucial because no one from the consolation finals can place ahead of anyone in the finals regardless of their time during the evening swim,” Saint Mary’s coach Ryan Dombkowski said.

The point system starts at 20 points for first place and decreases to one point for 16th. Relays earn double points, making them an important factor. The Belles 800-yard freestyle relay team is ranked fifth.

The Belles have struggled with depth all year, and a large meet like this one will bring that deficiency into stark relief.

“We are one of the smaller teams so we all have to do our best to make an impact at the meet,” Gerbeth said.

However, both Dombkowski and Gerbeth expect other swimmers to step up, including freshman Jen Lebiedz, sophomore Shannon Hansen and junior Kelly Tighe.

Saint Mary’s, however, is anything but unprepared for the competition.

“I’ve asked the team to put in a decent amount of yardage during the Thanksgiving holiday, and this week we’ve rested for a few days and worked on some of the different segments of our races,” Dombkowski said.

Gerbeth said the team had been “taking it easy this week.”

“We were all expected to swim hard last week on our breaks, and this week we are relaxing our muscles a little more and preparing for the meet,” she said. “There are going to be a lot of close races this weekend, and the most competition we have seen so far, so we all want to be prepared.”