A statement meet
Mavericks hope to use RMAC swimming championships to get national attention
Colorado Mesa swimming & diving coach Ron Allen sees the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference Championships as an opportunity.
Allen believes the Mavericks, as well as California Baptist, can make a statement to the rest of the conference and get the attention of the NCAA Division II nation one year after Division II powers Grand Canyon (Ariz.) and Incarnate Word (Texas) left to go to Division I.
“Both teams (Cal Baptist and CMU) are much improved, so they want to make a statement ... I think Cal Baptist and us will show something that will be really phenomenal,” Allen said.
Colorado Mesa hosts the RMAC Championships for the second consecutive year. Preliminaries begin at 9:30 a.m. today. Finals are scheduled for 5 p.m. each day through Saturday.
The men’s race for the RMAC title should be close and possibly come down to the last event.
“We are neck and neck with Cal Baptist,” Allen said. “Preliminaries is everything. It’s getting yourself seeded for the finals. That’s one of the biggest keys we’re stressing is making the finals.”
Kent Olsen-Stavrakas leads the men. The senior will compete in the freestyle sprints.
Justin Hastings (backstroke, butterfly), Jarren Brinton (distance freestyle), Tyler Kaslik (distance freestyle) and Rob Eisendrath (backstroke) are also expected to score high.
“This is what I’d call almost the perfect storm, especially with Kent and Justin,” Allen said. “With both of them injured last year, those are two of the best athletes in Division II right now. They are a big part of getting our relays to nationals. That all happening together is not going to happen every year.
“We didn’t have the top-end talent before. We had one or two kids. Now we have three or four to make a relay.”
The men’s 400 freestyle and the 200 freestyle relay teams have earned B provisional cuts for nationals, but they will have to break the school record to get an A cut.
Divers Brock Martin, Amanda Jennings and Savannah Craft already qualified for the NCAA Division II National Championships. Junior diver Ryan Popp is hoping to join them again this year with a qualifying score this weekend.
“Brock is our ace in the hole,” Allen said.
California Baptist is the favorite to win the women’s title with more top-end swimmers, but Allen is confident Mesa can challenge the Lancers for the team title.
“Baptist may be a notch ahead of them, but our goals are no less,” Allen said. “Our goal is to come out here and shock the heck out of everybody and have a chance to win conference. We have one or two relays with a good chance to make nationals. That’s one of their primary goals, too.”
Briana Purkapile leads the Mavericks. The senior will likely swim in the 200 butterfly and the 400 individual medley.
Freshman Eryn Leonard will compete in the butterfly and sprints, and junior Madison Wigg will swim the distance freestyle.
“I think getting a winning attitude is the biggest thing for our women,” Allen said. “At the end of the season, they have jelled together and showed more determination to perform well as a team. They’re coming together at the right time.”