Cards 'make it count,' split weekend matchup

After the loss, the team will have almost a month until next meet.

Before the men's swimming and diving team competed in its final dual meet of the season Saturday, someone placed a sign on the wall of Lewellen Aquatic Center.

It proclaimed, in big blue letters, "Make it count!" The Cardinals did just that, engaging in a spirited battle with Mid-American Conference opponents Toledo and Ohio. While Toledo took advantage of several close finishes to notch a 156-86 victory over the Cardinals, Ohio succumbed to the host team's depth and fell by a score of 135-108.

The Cardinals (5-8 overall, 3-4 MAC) began the meet on a high-note, narrowly winning the 400-yard medley relay in front of a loud crowd. The result would not stand, however, as an early exchange between the second and third swimmers resulted in a disqualification. The Cardinals' second relay still placed ahead of Ohio for a victory.

"Our second relay team really stepped up," head coach Bob Thomas said. "They came through because if we had gone into the hole against Ohio, it would have been an entirely different story against them."

The teams went on to split the final 12 events, but, as was the case in the relay, the Cardinal depth played a big role and helped eliminate the Ohio victories.

"In the events where they won, our guys finished 2-3-4," Thomas said. "When you score all those points you essentially take away their wins, which really hurt them."

The Cardinals closed out Ohio with a 1-2 sweep of the 200-yard backstroke by senior Nick Badgett (1:53.04) and sophomore Rod Smith (1:56.55), and a close victory in the 200-yard breaststroke by junior Zach Smith (2:12.18).

Against Toledo, Ball State came up inches short of victory in several races. Sophomores Ryan Bounds (1,000-yard freestyle) and Jason Revere (400-yard individual medley) both had Rocket swimmers pass them in the last 25 yards. Coupled with the earlier loss of the relay victory, the Cardinals could not overcome the close defeats.

"We were so close," Thomas said. "The score makes it look like they crushed us but there were so many close finishes it was almost unrealistic. It was nice to be so competitive with them. But, they're stronger, and they put it to us."

Badgett (200-yard backstroke) and Zach Smith (200-yard breaststroke) registered the only victories against the Rockets.

The team will now have almost an entire month off to prepare for the Mid-American Conference championships, held Mar. 7-9 in Athens, Ohio.