A reflection of the work they’ve put in is how head coach J. Agnew described Ball State’s (4-1) fourth-place finish in the Mid-American Conference Men’s Championship this weekend. The Cardinals finished with 511.50 points, their highest point total at the MAC Championships since 2005 (571).
“I think it's a reflection of the competitors they've been all season long,” Agnew said. “No matter what's been thrown against them, they are always ready for a race. They never back down and never give up.”
In his first MAC championship meet, freshman Joey Garberick continued his record-breaking season by becoming the first Ball State individual MAC Champion since Kurtis Leer (2006). He took home first place honors in the 100 breaststroke, with a program-record time of 53.99. Garerbick’s performance made him only the second swimmer in Ball State history (Steve Byrne, 1979) to win the 100 breaststroke at the MAC Championship.
Garberick’s impact did not stop there. He joined the sophomore trio of Bryce Handshoe, Jack Wolfred and Jared Holder to produce another program record time of 1:29.44, finishing third in the 200 medley relay. Garberick also earned a bronze medal Saturday evening in the 200 breaststroke with a personal best 1:58.41.
“They show up and compete, day in and day out,” Agnew said. “I've seen them work tirelessly throughout the year, and to see them standing tall on that top podium is awesome to see.”
Junior diver Hunter Ongay joined Garberick as the second Cardinal to secure an individual championship for the first time in 15 years. After placing second on the 1-meter diving board Thursday evening (298.55), Ongay returned to action Saturday with a 310.55 score on the 3-meter diving board. This score put him 20 points ahead of second place in route to his first gold medal.
“None of that would have happened without our assistant coaches,” Agnew said. “Our diving coach Jake Brehmer did an amazing job with Hunter this year, and my assistant coach Chris Bals put a lot of time in with our breastrokers. Those guys have been a driving force behind the performances.”
Five different Cardinals who competed Thursday placed in the top eight of their individual events, including three divers. On Friday alone, Ball State broke seven program records.
“I think the whole team walked into this meet with a lot of confidence,” Agnew said. “They worked incredibly hard all season, and we got to see the gains that they made in practice all year long. When we came here, we expected to swim fast and compete hard.”
Freshman Zach Zishka became the first Ball State swimmer in history to go sub -4:00 in the 400 IM (3:58:51). Holder placed fourth in the 100 backstroke with a program-record time of 48:32, while also placing fifth overall in the 200 backstroke with a time of 1:48.44 (second in school history).
Freshman Isaac Hunter captured a bronze medal for his performance on the 3-meter diving board (284.55). He also scored 260.50 on the 1-meter diving board to earn fifth place.
Garberick, Holder, Wolfred and sophomore Owen Chaye placed third in the 200 freestyle relay with a time of 1:21.09 (second in program history).
The tandem of sophomore Aiden Maurer, senior Davis Meyn, senior Drew Weeks and sophomore Landyn Reister finished with a school-record of 6:39.96 in the 800 freestyle relay.
Meyn recorded a preliminary time of 4:30.72 in the 500 freestyle, good enough for second in program history. Although he could not replicate that time in the finals (4:34.52), he still earned seventh place.
Chaye (44.73), Garbercik (45.58), Wolfred (45.40), and junior Duncan McLarty (45.51) were responsible for the second-fastest finish in the 400 free relays (3:01.22) in the last event of the weekend.
Awards were given out after Saturday's events. Hunter was named the Freshman Diver of the Year, while Ongay was given the Most Outstanding Diver Award. Holder was named to the All-MAC Second Team, while both Garberick and Ongay earned All-MAC First Team honors. Diving coach Jake Brehmer won the MAC Diving Coach of the Year. Agnew credits the Cardinals' forward mindset for their accomplishments.
“To me, it means they believe in themselves, and they believe in each other,” Agnew said. “They know that nobody's doing this by themselves. It's a team. It's a great coaching staff, with everybody pulling together and moving this program forward. By no means are we satisfied. We're all ready to take the next step this upcoming summer and next year.”