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Belles optimistic despite weekend losses

Joe Meixell | Monday, January 22, 2007

The Belles had a rough weekend in the pool, losing Friday to Kalamazoo, 125-85, and again Saturday against Hillsdale, 126-96.

The Belles (2-6) have only one meet left at home against Calvin before the MIAA championships in Grand Rapids begin Feb. 8.

But coach Ryan Dombkowski already sees the season as a success. The direction of the program coupled with the individual performances, he said, has elevated the program far above last year’s lows.

“We’ve won a couple meets – last year we didn’t win any,” Dombkowski said after the Hillsdale meet. “It’s a turn in the right direction.”

Dombkowski also believes the progress made will not only impress recruits but also show them opportunities.

“[Recruits will] see we’re fast in some events, but that we also have holes to fill,” he said. “It’ll show them an opportunity to contribute right away.”

Another measure of success lies in the performance of the swimmers. No one personifies this better than sophomore Melissa Gerbeth, who accounted for the only two wins against Hillsdale. Gerbeth won the 1,650 freestyle with a time of 18:23.58 and the 500 freestyle with a time of 5:24.56.

Two meets in two days didn’t faze her.

“I rested all day today, and I tried to swim an even-paced race,” she said. “I tried not to go all out at the beginning.”

Gerbeth can withhold some energy in her races depending on the competition she faces.

“On Friday I swam the 1,000 easy because I knew I could win it without going all out,” she said. “Then the next event I swam really hard.”

Senior Sarah Budd dropped her 500 freestyle time by seven seconds, finishing in 6:09.51, and was right at her lifetime bests for the 100 and 200 freestyle. Sara Niemann posted a lifetime best in the 200 backstroke, a time of 2:20.83. Maggie McNicholas lowered her lifetime best in the 200 fly by 10 seconds.

“We had a hard week of practice, and we just got back from the training trip to Florida a week ago,” Dombkowski said. “We broke the bodies down and tried to increase the endurance as much as possible, so it’s encouraging that we’re near or at lifetime bests. We’re probably going to back off next week to prepare for the conference meet.”

Saint Mary’s again suffered from lacking a diving team. Hillsdale recorded nine points in the diving competition.

The Belles swim against Calvin next Friday at 6 p.m. at Washington High School.