Johnnie Swim & Dive opens 2022-23 season Saturday at St. Kate’s

Saint John Swimming and Diving opens its 2022-23 season with the St. Catherine Pentathlon at 11 a.m. on Saturday, October 15 in St. Paul. – Live video

THE ENCOUNTER: Each swimmer will compete in a 100-yard version of each of five strokes: backstroke, breaststroke, butterfly, freestyle and individual medley.

A LOOK AT THE JOHNNIES: The Saint John Swim and Dive Team and Fourth Year Head Coach Ben Gill are optimistic for the 2022-23 season. And for good reason. SJU set a program record with 731 points at the 2022 MIAC Championships, finishing second out of six teams, and the majority of those student-athletes are returning this season.

The Johnnies return 81% (455 of 561) of individual points earned at the 2022 MIAC Championships, where SJU finished second out of six teams, as well as three MIAC Individual Champions in 2022-23. The relays are also preparing well for SJU, as the Johnnies fire all four members of the three freestyle relays and must replace one from each of the four strokes. All five relays finished second in the conference meet last February.

Diving force
SJU scored 50 points in each of two diving events last season and all three Johnnies are back. MIAC Diver of the Year 2022, second year Eli Grabinski (Sauk Rapids, Minn./Sauk Rapids-Rice) won both conference titles in convincing fashion last year after joining SJU for the spring and senior semester Connor Roseau (Elk River, Minn./Spectrum) finished second in both dives. Senior Christian Pfau (Williston, ND) totaled 26 points with two sixth-place finishes from the diving board.

Grabinski and Reed qualified for the NCAA Regional in Calvin, Mich., where Grabinski finished 10th out of 27 divers with a score of 433.60 in the 3-meter dive and 18th in the 1-meter dive. Reed made his second NCAA Regional appearance (2020) and finished 19th in the 3-meter dive (396.05) and 22nd in the 1-meter dive (355.20).

Two Grabinskis in the same pool
SJU also returns 2020 MIAC Co-Diver of the Year, Senior Jack Grabinsky (Sauk Rapids, Minn./Sauk Rapids-Rice), who is a two-time CSCAA All-American and Scholar All-American, and the 2020 conference champion in the 3-meter dive. He studied abroad last spring in Chile and missed the 2022 MIAC Championships, but would have had two NCAA Division III Championship appearances under his belt had that meet not been canceled in 2020 and 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The back champion is back
In the pool, SJU returns eight swimmers who have combined for a total of 25 All-MIAC honors (the top three at MIAC Championships). MIAC’s top student-athlete on backstroke last season, senior Joe Koller (Savage, Minn./Shakopee) returns after winning the 100- (50.88) and 200-yard (1:51.44) backstroke with SJU records at the 2022 MIAC Championships. It also served as the first leg in the Johnnies medley relay teams. He hit the wall fourth in the 200-yard individual medley.

Upper class leadership
A pair of elders, Handsome Brinkman (three; Wayzata, Minn.) and Ethan Huber (four; Mitchell, SD), have combined for seven All-MIAC honors through performances on SJU relays in the last two conference meetings. Individually, Brinkman ranked sixth in the 50-yard freestyle, seventh in the 100-yard backstroke and 11th in the 200-yard backstroke last year. The 2022-23 SJU Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) chairman, Huber finished fifth in the 400-yard individual medley, sixth in the 200-yard individual medley and seventh in the 200-yard breaststroke.

Another upper class student, junior Alex Heer (St. Paul, Minn./Cretin-Derham Hall) finished seventh in the 100 and 200 yard butterfly and 11th in the 100 yard backstroke. Senior Tim Belov (Medina, Minn./Wayzata) collected two 14th-place finishes in both breaststroke events.

Freshmen in the SJU Book of Records
Second year Carter Larson (Sartell, Minn./Sartell-St. Stephen) recorded three top-eight finishes at last year’s MIAC Championships – sixth in the 500-yard freestyle, seventh in the 1,650-yard freestyle and eighth in the 200-yard freestyle. He set four SJU records for a freshman. His times in the 1000- (10:01.46) and 1650 yards (16:35.69) are currently the third fastest in program history, while his times in the 200- (1:42.90) and 500 yards (4 :43.26 ) freestyles are fourth.

Second year Liam Noble (Plymouth, Minn./Benilde-St. Margaret’s) led SJU with a total of five All-MIAC honors last year in its first conference meeting. He joined Koller as an All-MIAC individual swimmer with a third-place finish in the 50-yard freestyle and competed in four of five relays. He just missed out on All-MIAC distinction with a fourth-place finish in the 100-yard backstroke and 100-yard freestyle. Noble’s times in the 50 (20.99) and 100 yard (46.40) freestyles are good for fifth all-time among SJU freshmen.

Second year Andre East (Minneapolis, Minn./South) placed fifth in the 100-yard butterfly in the conference meet, thanks to the third-fastest time by an SJU freshman (52.31), as well as 10th in the 200 yard butterfly and 11th in the 100 meter breaststroke.

Second year Connor Thayer (Prior Lake, Minn.) touched the wall ninth in the 500 and 1,650 yard freestyle, and 11th in the 200 yard freestyle at the 2022 MIAC Championships. His time of 4:47.85 in the 500 yard freestyle was fourth fastest of a first-year SJU student.

More freshman points
Three more 2022-23 sophomores provided points for SJU as a rookie at the 2022 MIAC Championships. Colby Kern (Delano, Minn.) narrowly missed All-MIAC recognition with a fourth-place finish in the 50-yard freestyle and finished seventh in the 100-yard butterfly and 100-yard freestyle. Zach Ruoff (Melrose, Minn./Melrose Area) finished ninth in the 50-yard freestyle, 10th in the 100-yard freestyle and 12th in the 200-yard freestyle, while Langston Philion (Maple Grove, Minn.) finished 11th in the 200-yard butterfly.

The 2022-23 calendar
After Saturday’s season opener, the Johnnies return to St. Paul at the end of the month (October 29) for a game in Macalester. SJU hosts St. Olaf (November 4) and Hamline (November 11), as well as its invite when the competition returns on January 14. The home program ends on January 28 with a double encounter against Gustavus Adolphus. The 2023 MIAC Championships are scheduled for February 15-18 at the Jean Freeman Aquatic Center at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis. The 2023 NCAA Division III Championships will be held March 15-18 in Greensboro, North Carolina

LAST YEAR’S PENTATHLON: SJU began its 2021-22 season with a head-to-head win over Hamline in last year’s St. Catherine’s Pentathlon held October 16, 2021 in the Butler Center Pool.

Kern edged Huber, 135-134, to lead the team in points. Junior Alex Heer (St. Paul, Minn./Cretin-Derham Hall) was just behind in a tie for fourth place (132).

Koller won the backstroke (55.58) and Larson hit the wall first in the freestyle (48.89).

Kern led SJU with a second-place butterfly (55.38), while Jack Mehus finished second in the breaststroke (1:04.43) and individual medley (56.95).

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