Johnnie Swim & Dive Opens 2022-23 Season Saturday at St. Kate’s

Saint John’s swimming and diving opens its 2022-23 season with the St. Catherine Pentathlon at 11 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 15, in St. Paul. – Live Video

THE MEET: Each swimmer will compete in a 100-yard version of each of the five strokes: backstroke, breaststroke, butterfly, freestyle and individual medley.

A LOOK AT THE JOHNNIES: The Saint John’s swimming and diving team and fourth-year head coach Ben Gill are optimistic for the 2022-23 season. And for good reason. SJU set a program record with 731 points at the 2022 MIAC Championships, finishing second out of six teams, and the majority of those student-athletes return this season. 

The Johnnies return 81 percent (455 of 561) of the individual points earned at the 2022 MIAC Championships, where SJU finished second out of six teams, as well as three MIAC individual champions in 2022-23. The relays shape up well for SJU too, as the Johnnies return all four members from the three freestyle relays and need to replace one from each of the medleys. All five relays finished second at the conference meet last February.

Diving Strength

SJU scored 50 points in each of the two diving events last season and all three Johnnies return. The 2022 MIAC Diver of the Year, sophomore Eli Grabinski (Sauk Rapids, Minn./Sauk Rapids-Rice) won both conference titles in convincing fashion last year after joining SJU for spring semester and senior Connor Reed (Elk River, Minn./Spectrum) was second in both dives. Senior Christian Pfau (Williston, N.D.) totaled 26 points with a pair of sixth-place finishes on the diving board.

Grabinski and Reed advanced to the NCAA Regional at Calvin (Mich.), where Grabinski finished 10th out of 27 divers with a score of 433.60 in the 3-meter dive and 18th on the 1-meter board. Reed made his second appearance at the NCAA Regional (2020) and claimed 19th in the 3-meter dive (396.05) and 22nd in the 1-meter event (355.20).

Two Grabinskis in the Same Pool

SJU also returns the 2020 MIAC Co-Diver of the Year, senior Jack Grabinski (Sauk Rapids, Minn./Sauk Rapids-Rice), who is a two-time CSCAA All-American and Scholar All-American, and the 2020 conference champion in the 3-meter dive. He studied abroad last spring in Chile and missed the 2022 MIAC Championships, but would have had two appearances at the NCAA Division III Championships under his belt had that competition not been cancelled in 2020 and 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Backstroke Champ is Back

In the pool, SJU returns eight swimmers who combined for a total of 25 All-MIAC honors (top-three at the MIAC Championships). The MIAC’s top student-athlete in the backstroke last season, senior Joe Koller (Savage, Minn./Shakopee) returns after winning both the 100- (50.88) and 200-yard (1:51.44) backstrokes with SJU records at the 2022 MIAC Championships. He also served as the first leg on the Johnnies’ medley relay teams. He touched the wall fourth in the 200-yard individual medley.

Upperclassman Leadership

A pair of seniors, Beau Brinkman (three; Wayzata, Minn.) and Ethan Huber (four; Mitchell, S.D.), have combined for seven All-MIAC honors thanks to performances on SJU relays over the last two conference meets. Individually, Brinkman placed sixth in the 50-yard freestyle, seventh in the 100-yard backstroke and 11th in the 200-yard backstroke last year. SJU’s 2022-23 Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) president, Huber claimed fifth in the 400-yard individual medley, sixth in the 200-yard individual medley and seventh in the 200-yard breaststroke. 

Another upperclassman, junior Alex Heer (St. Paul, Minn./Cretin-Derham Hall) finished seventh in both the 100- and 200-yard butterfly and 11th in the 100-yard backstroke. Senior Tim Belov (Medina, Minn./Wayzata) tallied a pair of 14th-place finishes in the two breaststroke events.

Freshmen in the SJU Record Book

Sophomore Carter Larson (Sartell, Minn./Sartell-St. Stephen) recorded three top-eight finishes at last year’s MIAC Championships – sixth in the 500-yard freestyle, seventh in the 1,650-yard freestyle and eighth in the 200-yard freestyle. He set four SJU records for a freshman. His times in the 1,000- (10:01.46) and 1,650-yard (16:35.69) freestyles are currently third-fastest in program history, while his times in the 200- (1:42.90) and 500-yard (4:43.26) freestyles are fourth.

Sophomore Liam Noble (Plymouth, Minn./Benilde-St. Margaret’s) led SJU with a total of five All-MIAC honors last year at his first conference meet. He joined Koller as an All-MIAC individual swimmer with a third-place finish in the 50-yard freestyle and was on four of the five relays. He just missed All-MIAC distinction with a fourth-place time in both the 100-yard backstroke and 100-yard freestyle. Noble’s times in the 50- (20.99) and 100-yard (46.40) freestyles are good for fifth all-time among SJU freshmen.

Sophomore Andrew East (Minneapolis, Minn./South) placed fifth in the 100-yard butterfly at the conference meet, thanks to the third-fastest time by an SJU freshman (52.31), as well as 10th in the 200-yard butterfly and 11th in the 100-yard breaststroke.

Sophomore Connor Thayer (Prior Lake, Minn.) touched the wall ninth in both the 500- and 1,650-yard freestyles, and 11th in the 200-yard freestyle at the 2022 MIAC Championships. His time of 4:47.85 in the 500-yard freestyle was the fourth-fastest by an SJU freshman.

More Freshman Points

Three other 2022-23 sophomores provided points for SJU as freshmen at the 2022 MIAC Championships. Colby Kern (Delano, Minn.) just missed All-MIAC recognition with a fourth-place time in the 50-yard freestyle and claimed seventh in both the 100-yard butterfly and 100-yard freestyle. Zach Ruoff (Melrose, Minn./Melrose Area) finished ninth in the 50-yard freestyle, 10th in the 100-yard freestyle and 12th in the 200-yard freestyle, while Langston Philion (Maple Grove, Minn.) was 11th in the 200-yard butterfly.

The 2022-23 Schedule

Following Saturday’s season opener, the Johnnies return to St. Paul at the end of the month (Oct. 29) for a dual at Macalester. SJU hosts St. Olaf (Nov. 4) and Hamline (Nov. 11), as well as its invitational when competition returns in the New Year on Jan. 14. The home schedule ends Jan. 28 with a dual meet vs. Gustavus Adolphus. The 2023 MIAC Championships are scheduled for Feb. 15-18 at the University of Minnesota’s Jean Freeman Aquatic Center in Minneapolis. The 2023 NCAA Division III Championships are set for March 15-18 in Greensboro, N.C.

LAST YEAR’S PENTATHLON: SJU started its 2021-22 season with a head-to-head win over Hamline at last year’s St. Catherine Pentathlon held Oct. 16 (2021) in the Butler Center Pool.

Kern edged Huber, 135-134, to lead the team in points. Junior Alex Heer (St. Paul, Minn./Cretin-Derham Hall) was close behind in a tie for fourth (132). 

Koller won the backstroke (55.58) and Larson touched the wall first in the freestyle (48.89).

Kern led SJU with a second-place finish in the butterfly (55.38), while Jack Mehus took second in both the breaststroke (1:04.43) and individual medley (56.95).

 

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