Bryant leads a full Mesa team to nationals

Sam Bryant has been here before.

The Colorado Mesa University senior comes into this week’s NCAA Division II National Championships as the top seed in the 1,000- and 1,650-yard freestyles, is the second seed in the 400 individual medley and is seeded fourth in the 500 freestyle.

That’s similar to last season, when he was the top seed in the distance events and the 400 IM and qualified in five events, but his sixth-place finish in the 1,000 freestyle was his top finish.

He hopes that will change this season — starting with his mindset.

“I’m going into this meet with the mindset of a champion,” Bryant said. “I’m not going in there looking at all of my competition and people who could beat me. I’m going into this with the mindset that I’m one of the better swimmers there.”

Bryant will be one of a program-record 20 swimmers who will compete in the event, which runs Wednesday through Saturday in Birmingham, Alabama. It’s a field that includes five relays on the men’s and women’s sides, six men’s individual swimmers and six divers and, unlike some teams, a festive mindset.

“It’s great to have a full team, basically,” Mesa coach Geoff Hanson said. “Lots of schools will come in with two or three swimmers, but to have the whole group there like that ... will create more of an encouraging team atmosphere.”

Among the team members who helped Mesa win this year’s RMAC meet title was Josh Bedford, who qualified in the 200 individual medley, and Ryan Gifford, who qualified in the 400 individual medley. Chris Radomski qualified in the 100 fly, and Eric Berg qualified in the 100 back. Sky Hirsch qualified in the 50 free.

Senior Mary Saiz, Mesa’s only individual qualifier, made it in the 100 and 200 backstroke. She’s seeded sixth in the 200 back, an event she was the national runner-up in last year.

Divers, who begin competition today with a qualifying event, include Sage D’Ambrosia and Noah Macomber competing on the men’s 1- and 3-meter springboard. This is the third national-meet qualification for D’Ambrosia, a junior.

Cassie Blakeman, Brittany Dixon, Abby Smith and Kelsey Vreeman will all also compete on the women’s one- and three-meter.

TRACK AND FIELD

Joining the swim team will be Mesa’s D’Angelo Foster and Nolan Ellis, who’ll will represent CMU at the Division II Indoor Track and Field Championships.

Foster is ranked 14th in the heptathlon with a school-record score of 5,076 points, which came at a meet at Colorado School of Mines in Golden. He was third in the heptathlon at the RMAC Championships in Spearfish, South Dakota.

Ellis reached the national meet in the pole vault with a mark of 16 feet, 5 1/2 inches, which came at the Western State Open in Gunnison on Feb. 4. This will be his second trip to the national championships — he also competed in last year’s outdoor national meet in the pole vault after reaching the national qualifying standard at the beginning of the season.


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