Men’s and women’s swimming and diving teams have successful weekend

The St. Thomas swimming and diving teams closed a two-day meet Saturday with a win for the men and a second place finish for the women. Both teams were coming off wins in the Ahlman Invitational at Macalester.

The men, who were in second place behind University of Wisconsin-La Crosse at the end of Friday’s events, came up big Saturday to top the Eagles and earn the first place finish with 1171.5 points. Macalester, Hamline, Saint Mary’s and Gustavus also competed.

The Tommie women had 942 points at the end of the two-day event, putting them in second place behind La Crosse with 1055.5 points.

Men and women in second after day one

Both the men’s and women’s teams held on to second place after Friday’s events trailing University of Wisconsin-La Crosse.

The Tommie men racked up 278 points, while the women secured 245 with key first place finishes in the men’s 200 medley, 800 free and women’s 1-meter dive, 200 medley and 1,650 free.

Coach Tom Hodgson said he was glad to see his team in the running with Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference power La Crosse.

“We swam very well in spots,” Hodgson said. “It wasn’t our strongest lineup day. We have better events (Saturday), so I’m pleased that we’re in the race with La Crosse. We had a number of spectacular 200 medley relays and two really good 800 relays too.”

Sophomore diver Nick Johnson placed third in the 1-meter diving competition scoring 237.65 points after an otherwise perfect season of first place finishes in the event.

“I did fail a dive, so that knocked me down a whole dive. The fact that I still finished third with the La Crosse divers that were here. . . that’s pretty outstanding,” Johnson said.

Freshman Elise Guenther had a notable win for the women Friday with her first place 18:04.18 finish in the 1,650 free. Guenther set an Anderson pool record in the event.

Guenther said the final 100 yards were a tough push.

“I was pretty much just trying not to think about the pain,” Guenther said. “It hurt a lot. I just tried to focus on finishing and repeating in my head how many lengths I had left.”

A successful Saturday

The Tommies combined for 36 total meet, pool and St. Thomas school records Saturday.

Hodgson said the success comes from an emphasis on teaching techniques.

“We’ve been working really hard. My assistant coaches Elise Knoche and Scott Blanchard have done a terrific job teaching,” Hodgson said. “We’ve really been trying to maintain that teaching aspect this season.”

The men’s victory included first, second and third place finishes in the 400 medley. Junior Michael Hoelterhoff, junior Sam Rauchwarter, sophomore Matt Rippentrop and freshman Nathan France finished in 3:36.62 and finished first.

Other notable men’s victories came from Hoelterhoff in the 100 backstroke winning by one second. Rippentrop and junior Ben Ruhme tied for first place in the 200 butterfly with a 2:03.36 finish.

Johnson avenged his one-meter third place finish by placing first in the 3-meter competition. Johnson said a dive he learned on Tuesday was a helpful factor in clinching the win.

“Next week at Collegeville is some of my biggest competition, so having that new dive to use there will be awesome,” Johnson said.

The women started Saturday strong with sophomores Hayley Trace and Erin Hogan along with freshmen Mariann Kukielka and Emily Punkyo winning the 400 medley in 4:00.93.

Kukielka also won the 100 butterfly in 1:00:10.

Guenther tacked on her second meet record in the 500 free in 5:19.62 while freshman Emily Punkyo broke two St. Thomas school records in the 100 and 200 breast stroke.

Punkyo said she was surprised to break two school records at one meet.

“I had no idea I was going to break the 200,” Punkyo said.

Senior diver Jennifer Easton won both the 1-and 3-meter dives. Easton remains undefeated in both events this season.

The Tommies travel to Collegeville Saturday, Dec. 10, to face St. Ben’s and St. John’s before breaking for final exams. The teams will travel to Florida the week after Christmas for training camp. The team’s competitions resumes in January.

Briggs Lesavage can be reached at