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Iowa swim finds motivation in tough loss

BY RYAN RODRIGUEZ | JANUARY 30, 2014 5:00 AM

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With one event left to determine the outcome of the meet, the Iowa men’s swimming and diving team took to the blocks for the last race of the night: the 400-freestyle relay.

The whistle blew, and both teams were off. The race was neck and neck the whole way; however, Chase Stephens and Andrew Jovanovich of Northwestern took the top two spots, edging Hawkeye David Ernstsson in the final leg, giving the Wildcats a 151-149 victory, the narrowest margin of defeat this season for Iowa.

Less than four-tenths of a second separated the first place and third place times.

“It’s tough for sure,” sophomore Charles Holliday said. “It was just so unexpected. You were in the moment and really didn’t see it coming, but you’ve got to move on from it.”

Holliday swam the second leg of the relay, one of the tightest races in head coach Marc Long’s tenure at Iowa.

“We actually thought we had the race won while they were swimming based of what the score was, but then it changed while we were in the water,” Long said. “But regardless, we have to focus on what was good and what needs improvement.”

An exciting meet that was back and forth throughout, Iowa swam hard in every event, underscoring how tough it was to come away with a loss by such an excruciatingly close margin.

The loss dropped the Hawkeyes in the College Swimming Coaches Association of America national rankings from 21 to 25.

“It was a fun race to be at and watch, just no fun to be a part of the ending score,” Long said.

However, the one silver lining comes from Iowa’s schedule. A quick turnaround and tough competition almost every weekend forces the Black and Gold not to dwell on their mistakes but rather learn from them and improve.

“There wasn’t much dwelling on it,” senior Dustin Rhoads said. “We thought about some of the little things that we could have done better, and we’re going to have to do a lot of those little things better this weekend.”

No matter the outcome, each Big Ten meet is an opportunity for the Hawks to gain experience against some of the competition they will face at the end of the year during championship season.

“There were a lot of little things we could have done to make the gap more than 2 points,” Holliday said. “You have to look at yourself and ask where could you have gotten 2 more points.”

With such a high quality and class of swimmers in conference, Iowa has found value even in a loss.

“I guess it helps us losing right there,” Holliday said. “If we don’t have anything under our belts going in to championship season, it gives us another chance to try to redeem ourselves.”

Lucky for Iowa, it still has a few more chances. The Hawkeyes will travel to South Bend, Ind., on Friday and Saturday to participate in the Shamrock Invitational before returning home to host Western Illinois to close out the dual-meet season.

“I’ll tell you what — we will be sharper because of this,” Long said. “We’ll be a better team in the end.”


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