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Ohio University swimmer, Gabrielle Brust (left), celebrates after her and her teammates competed in the Championship Heat - 400 Medley Relay in the 2024 MAC Swimming and Dive Tournament at the Aquatic Center, Ohio University, Feb. 29, 2024. The Ohio University Relay team, comprised of Riley Bustine (right), Casi Dibetta (middle), Gabrielle Brust and Zita Szoke, placed third in this event.

Swim and Dive: Ohio concludes MAC Championships in third place, caps strong season

After all the fanfare and mayhem that occurred at the end of the weekend at the Mid-American Conference Swim and Dive Championships, Ohio could be found huddled in the hallway of the Ohio Aquatic Center. Coach Mason Norman addressed his team, some of whom were visibly emotional. The ending was not the storybook one with Ohio getting to hoist the trophy in its home pool, but still, it was an ending to be proud of. Ohio was able to secure its highest placement as a team at the MAC Championships since it was runner-up in 2013. 

1650-yard Freestyle: 

In the longest event of the weekend, Callie Tuma of Ball State emerged from the 66-lap marathon with a title.

Tuma narrowly beat out Akron’s Astrid Halvorsen, who competed in an earlier heat, by 0.11 seconds. In third place, Ohio’s Morgan Croaning was followed by her teammates, Gabrielle McKee and Anna McGrath. The three for Ohio provided a solid start to the day and positioned Ohio for a comeback attempt. 

Following the Ohio trio, Miami had a pair of swimmers file in, Audrey Conley and Casey Stephens. Ball State and Buffalo also had participants finish in the top nine of the event. 

200-yard Backstroke: 

This competition’s final only featured participants from three schools: Akron, Miami and Buffalo. Akron led the pack once again as it saw the top two finishers both wearing its swim caps — Weronika Gorecka and Madelyn Gatrall with times of 1:55.10 and 1:55.29, respectively. Buffalo found its way into third place in the event as Mia Naccarella finished with a time of 1:56.70. 

100-yard Freestyle: 

Coming off her record-breaking day, the only thing that many asked was if Ohio freshman Zita Szoke could replicate her awe-inspiring success. Against one of the most prolific swimmers in the conference, Miami’s Nicole Maier, Szoke was just unable to pull off another upset. Maier picked up a MAC record in this event, cementing herself as one of the best swimmers in the conference once again. 

In third place, Ball State’s Payton Kelly was able to reach the podium with a time of 49.03. In fourth place, Miami’s Honor Brodie-Foy was the second finisher for her school. Ohio’s other participant, McKenzie Grau finished in 7th place with a time of 50.12. 

100-yard Breaststroke: 

Coming off a record-breaking day of her own that saw her win an event, Ohio’s Casadie Dibetta was expected to repeat her performance. Although it can be tough to perform when seen as an overwhelming favorite, Dibetta seemed immune to the pressure, winning the event with her time of 2:11.59 being nearly two seconds better than the second-place finisher, Akron’s Sara Bozso. 

“Last year, I swam and got fourth and fifth place,” Dibetta said. “I was really excited for that and my goal this year was to get top three.” 

Finishing in third place was Ball State’s Laura Wright with her time of 2:13.69. She was followed by another Ohio swimmer, Julia Strine, who had a time of 2:14.38. Ohio also had another two swimmers in this event, Emily Ellsworth and Edie Sawyer, who finished in 7th and 9th place, respectively. 

200-yard Butterfly: 

Sometimes when an athlete fails to win, the blame is put on them for not rising to the occasion. Other times, it is simply due to facing a superior opponent. In the case of Gabrielle Brust, the latter rang true. Brust was able to snag third place, placing her on the podium. Unfortunately for Brust, her best efforts were not enough to chase down Akron’s two-headed monster of Abigail Daniel and Rachel Sabotin, the former of whom broke three records in this event. 

Brust was followed by Buffalo’s Clarice Fisher whose time of 1:59.11 earned her a fourth-place finish. In succession, the field was rounded out by Miami’s Erin Szczupakiewicz, Ball State’s Alexa Von Holtz and a pair of Akron swimmers, Maggie Patterson and Hannah Trainer. 

400-yard Freestyle Relay: 

After the 3-Meter Diving Final was won by Buffalo’s Marialis Kwak, the final event of the night would also end the weekend of competition. The 400-yard Freestyle Relay saw a perfect encapsulation of the weekend as Akron cruised past the competition, followed by Miami and Ohio. Following the perennial top-three finishers was Buffalo with Toledo, Eastern Michigan, Ball State and Bowling Green rounding out the field. 


Once the dust had settled and all the records had been broken and reset, Ohio finished third overall with 583 points, trailing only Akron’s 812.5 points and Miami’s 682.5 points. Additionally, Ohio placed two swimmers on the Second Team All-MAC with McKenzie Grau and Julia Strine receiving the honor. However, Ohio was not done receiving awards for a very impressive showing over the past four days. Dibetta, Brust and McKee all found themselves on the First Team All-MAC. Not only did Szoke earn her spot on the First Team All-MAC, but she also captured the Freshman Swimmer of the Year award. 

“It was amazing,” Szoke said. “I don’t even know what to say … It's incredible. This is just the beginning. I think we are all going to work so much harder (in the offseason).” 

Overall, Norman was proud of his team and what they accomplished. He restated the fact that he has been building this program with the sole purpose of competing like this during the MAC Championships. In his mind, these results say less about his work and more about the work of his team. 

“That is what Ohio Swimming and Diving is all about,” Norman said. “We’re just trying to build back up. It has taken a long time, and we’re still on the rise. We’re still coming.” 


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