By Kirk Jessome
The 2017-18 men’s swimming team continued the program’s rich tradition of winning by claiming their 20th consecutive AUS title.
With a fairly young roster, the experience of the three fourth and fifth year seniors was key to the team’s success with Gavin Dyke once again leading the way.
Dyke, in his fifth and final year, was strong for the Tigers all season as a freestyle and relay specialist. Dyke was dominant in the sprints, setting U SPORTS qualifying times early in the year at the Kemp-Fry Invitational meet in both the 100m and 200m freestyle.
At the conference championship, Dyke earned five gold medals between individual races and relays, and Tigers head coach Lance Cansdale says he will be missed next year.
“Gavin has been a leader for us, not just as a captain, but as a relay anchor we could always depend on,” says Cansdale. “The toughest thing about losing Gavin will be replacing him. As a swimmer, he is a special talent.”
Karlsen set a national qualifying mark early in the season thanks to an AUS record in the 400m IM at the Kemp-Fry Invitational. He bettered the record he set at the same event last season by nearly three seconds. He went on to collect five gold at the AUS championships.
Immel-Herron won five gold of his own and added a bronze for an incredible AUS championship meet.
The team went undefeated in all three conference meets, but heading into the AUS championships the group was dealing with some injury issues. With Acadia putting a target on them, Cansdale said his group stepped up when it mattered.
“We knew that Acadia was gearing towards beating us, but our men answered the bell with a huge number of lifetime-best swims, some very gutsy performances and a quality that trusted the process we started back in September."
The injuries continued to be an issue when the team travelled to nationals with relay anchor Gavin Dyke still trying to help his team by racing through an injured back, but Cansdale calls the group’s 12th place finish a learning experience.
“The experience and exposure for the men that attended will help their preparation for next year and hopefully feed a hunger to improve in 2019.”
Karlsen led the men’s team at the national championships with a 10th place finish in the 400m IM, as well as three other top 20 individual finishes. Immel-Herron had two top 20 finishes to add to the Tigers point total.
Looking ahead to next season, the Tigers have a strong group of young swimmers that will continue to develop alongside a large group of incoming freshmen to help the team grow deeper and move up the national rankings.