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Belles end two year win drought

Joe Meixell | Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Lindsey Nelis, Sara Niemann and Melissa Gerbeth each won two individual races along with Saint Mary’s two relay victories in the Belles’ 130-103 victory over Alma Saturday.

Nelis won the 200-meter freestyle with a time of 2:04.12 and the 500-meter freestyle in 5:38.19. Niemann won the 50-meter freestyle in 27.08 seconds and the 200-meter backstroke in 2:22.75. Gerbeth took the 1,000-meter freestyle in 11:25.73 and the 200 individual medley in 2:24.04.

Saint Mary’s relay teams also performed well, winning both races. The 200-meter medley relay team, consisting of Niemann, Jen Lebiedz, Meredith Lierz, and Kelly Tighe, won with a time of 2:04.93. The 200-meter freestyle relay, swum by Gerbeth, Lierz, Nelis and Tighe, took first with a time of 1:50.40.

This meet was the team’s first since a training trip to Florida over Christmas Break, a 10-day excursion attended by 16 swimmers.

Belles coach Ryan Dombkowski saw improvement in two departments due to the trip.

“They worked pretty hard,” he said. “They swam doubles eight of the ten days, and even though their bodies are broken down, their endurance increased immensely.”

The camaraderie of the team was also bolstered.

“The sixteen bonded as a team,” Dombkowski said. “You can tell they’re a much different group as far as the team is concerned. They really supported each other at Alma, and they push each other in practice. They’ve really come together as a unit.”

Dombkowski was surprised at the results in the Alma meet after a hard training trip.

“You don’t usually see the best times,” he said. “They knew they had the opportunity to win the meet, and heart and determination won close races.”

Although the majority of the races this season have been won by the same four swimmers, every member of the team has contributed. Freshmen Jackie Cattie took fourth in the 500 freestyle, finishing 27 seconds ahead of Alma’s Kelly Marks. The finish was not consequential in the individual race, but very important in the scoring, says Dombkowski.

“This was her third event of the day,” he said. “It was neck and neck, and she pulled it out in the end. It was her best time of the season by twelve seconds. Even though it’s fourth place, the team gains two points instead of one. If all swimmers win little tiny battles, it makes a difference in the long run. Between fifth and sixth place is a big battle, a swing of 26 points in the meet.”

This meet was also the first conference meet the Belles have won since the 2004-2005 season.

“It shows recruits that Saint Mary’s can be successful,” Dombkowski said. “It makes a big difference toward the psyche of moving in the right direction. You can’t win them all until you win one, and we’ll take this one now.”