This is a note that might throw Mapquest for a momentary loop.
The Ashland University swimming and diving teams train just up the road from Mansfield, Ohio. This week, the Eagles boarded a plane and landed in Mansfield, Texas.
There are a lot of miles between those two towns with a common name and at this time of the year, the type of swimming between the two venues is wildly different. To train day after day in a lonely pool is one thing. Competing in the NCAA Division II nationals in front of a roaring crowd is another.
This week, Wednesday through Saturday (Mar. 14-17), the Eagles are in Texas at the Mansfield ISD Natatorium. The Eagles have five men and seven women competing at this year's national championship meet. Entering this meet, the AU women are ranked ninth in the nation and the Ashland men are 15th.
The Ashland women put together the best finish in program history a year ago, placing fifth. Two years ago, the AU women were seventh. The women's 200 free relay has captured two consecutive national championships. A year ago, that quartet won gold in a school record time of 1:32.08. This squad has a strong veteran nucleus and has the potential to finish among the nation's Top 10 teams again.
This year, the four swimmers the Eagles will send to the starting blocks in 200 free relay are juniors Julie Widmann (Littleton, Colo./Heritage), and Rachael Ausdenmoore (Southlake, Texas/Carroll), sophomore Gabriela Verdugo-Arzaluz (Chihuahua, Mexico/Institute Technologico y de Estudious Superiores de) and senior Mary Cargill (Wadsworth, Ohio). Widmann and Cargill were part of last season's national title quartet.
As usual, Widmann will be involved in a number of events. Individually, she's in the 50 freestyle, 100 backstroke and 100 freestyle. She's also on the 200 medley relay, 400 medley relay and 400 free relays. A year ago Widmann was a points machine, placing third in the 50 freestyle and 100 backstroke. The 400 medley relay was sixth last year. Expected to join Widmann in the race this year are senior Maura Anderson (Lakewood, Ohio), sophomore Brittany Finlay (Marysville, Ohio) and Cargill.
Like Widmann, Anderson isn't going to have a lot of spare time to take in the sights in Texas. She's in the 100 butterfly, 100 breaststroke, 200 breaststroke, 200 medley relay and 400 free relay. A year ago Anderson was sixth in the 100 butterfly and 200 IM and seventh in the 100 breaststroke.
In addition to the above names, sophomore Sara Reidler (Gahanna, Ohio/Gahanna Lincoln) is at nationals. She's expected to compete in the 100 backstroke and 200 medley relay and 400 free relay. Last year, that 200 medley got a bronze medal. Reidler, Anderson and Cargill were all part of that effort.
For the men junior Cheyne Fisher (Durban, South Africa/Westville) was the silver medalist in the 200 breaststroke last spring. Fisher was also third in the 100 breaststroke and 14th in the 200 IM. This year he's in the 100 breaststroke, 200 breaststroke, 200 medley relay and 400 medley relay.
Junior Tyler Remmel (Hubertus, Wis./Hertford Union) is expected to swim the 200 and 400 medley relays. Sophomore Jacob Miller (Hilliard, Ohio/Hilliard-Davidson) will join him on the 200 medley relay. Sophomore Alexander Sheil (Sydney, Australia/Trinity) made it to nationals a year ago and was 12th in the 200 freestyle. He's back in that race this year along with the 400 medley relay.
Junior Mauricio Uranga (Chihuahua, Mexico/La Salle Chihuahua) will compete in the 200 and 400 medley relays. A year ago Uranga and Sheil were on the 800 free relay that was sixth.
Drury, long a power on the NCAA Division II scene, is the defending champion in both men's and women's swimming. However, this year could see a change at the top of the leader board. The Cal-San Diego women are ranked first in the country and Drury is second. Emerging power Grand Canyon is third. For the men, Grand Canyon is ranked first, Incarnate Word is second, Cal-San Diego is third and Drury is fourth.