Tempe is hot. Very hot. When the thermometers reach 103ºF, and there is not a single cloud in the sky, it’s natural to look for a pool. Those who found themselves at the Mona Plummer Aquatic Center this Friday afternoon were searching for something different than a way to cool down, however.
After a long summer of anticipation, the ASU Swim & Dive 2018-2019 campaign is finally underway. Coach Bob Bowman and his staff spent the offseason bringing in one of the strongest freshman classes in the nation. And the team’s offseason came to an official end on Friday afternoon, as Team Maroon took on Team Gold in the intrasquad meet.
There was something in the air in Tempe, or more likely, in the water. The excitement and energy coming from the swimmers could be felt down Veterans Way. An intrasquad is a simpler form of a scrimmage–the Sun Devils were racing the Sun Devils. At the end of the day, ASU would be victorious. However, the predictability of the meet didn’t stop swimmers from going all-in for what sophomore Grant House referred to as, “The most intense meet of the year.” Some swimmers took to Twitter to take care of business: sophomore Cam Smith tweeted,
good morning to gold team only— Cam Smith (@camsmithhhhh) September 28, 2018
After sophomore Carter Swift voiced his excitement, fellow Sophomore Erica Laning fired back.
Bout to get that work. Gold for the win— Erica laning (@erica_laning) September 28, 2018
After House won the 200 freestyle in dominant fashion, he pounded the water and channeled his inner Kirk Cousins, yelling, “YOU LIKE THAT?” House was neck and neck with the rest of the field, a testament to the Sun Devils’ depth and strength in mid-distance freestyle events. This was until the 175-yard mark when House showcased his leg strength on his final flip turn to leap ahead of the pack. In the very next event, House was standing behind the blocks, cheering on Gold teammate senior Danny Comforti in his 100 breaststroke.
After the meet, House addressed his excitement surrounding the meet, “I look forward to this day every single year and the hype behind it. I absolutely love it.”
Freshmen Khalil Fonder and Cody Bybee fought in what likely made out to be the most exciting race of the afternoon, the 100 butterfly. Fonder was the last swimmer to emerge from underwater–a change for Bybee, who is used to dominating fields with his long underwaters. However, Bybee’s strong breakout put him ahead of Fonder after the first turn and kept it that way until the final 25 of the race. Then, Fonder turned on the jets and passed Bybee with incredible closing speed under the flags to win by the razor-thin margin of .03 seconds.
While the meet also provided a platform for highly sought after freshmen such as Cody Bybee and Khalil Fonder, it also featured the improvements of upperclassmen. In the 200 medley relay, junior Zach Poti showed off long underwaters on backstroke, and provided a sizeable enough lead for Khalil Fonder to keep away from Cody Bybee in the butterfly leg, as Fonder handed the relay off to sophomore Evan Carlson, who pushed past Sophomore Carter Swift to secure a Gold team win in the relay.
On the women’s side, the transfer from the University of Wisconsin, junior Cierra Runge dominated in distance events. In the longest event of the day, the 1000 freestyle, Runge struck fast and early to keep the lead for the entirety of the race. Runge spoke to this later, citing that the strongest part of her race is her, “Ability to hold steady, and the ability to kick into a higher gear.” Runge did the same with the 500 freestyle, taking the event by the horns and controlling it.
Freshman Ruby Martin is the missing piece to the Sun Devils’ 400 medley relay squad. Junior Chloe Isleta’s powerful flip turns propel her in backstroke, and junior Silja Kansakowski’s butter smooth breaststroke took her to a 6th place finish at NCAA Championships last March, although the Devils are forced to choose between senior Fanny Teijonsalo’s two best strokes for her position on the relay: butterfly and freestyle. The addition of Ruby Martin made this decision far easier. In the 200 butterfly, Ruby Martin blazed past the competition, and did the same in the 100 butterfly, partly in thanks to her dominant underwaters.
The Maroon and Gold teams were both evenly matched: after the 100 butterfly, the two teams were locked tightly, a Gold advantage for both genders. The Gold men led 100-97 over Maroon, and the Gold women led Maroon 115-111. With just the 200 individual medley and 400 freestyle relays to swim, both sides showed their determination to win the meet.
In the women’s 400 freestyle relay, sophomore Emma Nordin showed spectacular closing speed, giving the Maroon B relay the lead. When sophomore Camryn Curry dove in the water, she turned the race into a higher gear, propelling the Maroon A relay to a heavy lead. Curry handed the race off to Fanny Teijonsalo, then Cierra Runge who both extended the Maroon A relay’s lead to secure a women’s Maroon victory on the day.
The men’s race was a similar one-sided story, albeit this time it was the Gold Team’s chance to shine. The relay of sophomores Grant House and Evan Carlson; freshman Liam Bresette, and junior Zach Poti monopolized the lead of the race form the start. This command further extended the Gold squad’s lead and captured the win for the men.
Although the Maroon/Gold rivalry shined brightly on Friday, the team stays tight-knit, with a dynamic that coach Bob Bowman called, “The best positive attitude that we’ve had since I’ve been here.”
Cierra Runge complimented that, explaining how great the team dynamic has been through the summer heading into this season, “Everybody wants the best for each other, and while we’re in the pool we obviously want to win, but we want the best for our teammates. If they have a great swim and beat me, I’m still going to be super happy for them.”
The Sun Devils Swim & Dive staff worked tirelessly this summer in an effort to bring an embarrassment of riches to Tempe, and Friday’s intrasquad offered a taste of what is to come this winter. The women will swim Oregon State on October 5th, in Oregon; while the men’s team will not see action until they journey to Tallahassee on October 26th to face Florida State.