Q&A with Coach Carlson

The 2013 MIAC Swimming and Diving Championships featured three teams all with serious intents of claiming the women's team title. Three-time defending champion Gustavus was among the favorites, although both St. Thomas and St. Olaf had defeated the Gusties in dual meets during the regular season.
However, Gustavus again ruled the pool thanks to the efforts of MIAC Women's Swimmer-of-the-Year Alissa Tinklenberg and many, many more, and the Gusties captured their fourth-straight title and sixth championship in seven years. All weekend long, Gustavus dedicated their effort as a "Race for Grace" in honor of teammate Grace Goblirsch who is battling a serious illness. The rest of the MIAC joined in the "Race for Grace" efforts in a tremendous show of sportsmanship and compassion throughout the league.
Gustavus Head Coach Jon Carlson joined the MIAC Media Blog for the latest installment of Championship Coach Q&A to discuss his team's title, the Gusties' approach to their preparation and the championship meet, the "Race for Grace" efforts and much more.
MIAC Media Blog Championship Coach Q&A
Jon Carlson, Gustavus Women's Swimming and Diving
Gustavus Head Coach Jon Carlson
MIAC: First of all, congratulations on your 2013 MIAC Women's Swimming  and Diving Championship. Your team put on quite a performance to capture your fourth-straight title, and sixth title in seven years. What made this year's team so successful?
CARLSON: The student-athletes really did care more about their teammates than their own individual performances. This is rare in an individual sport like swimming and diving. They bought into the idea of taking care of each other, which will make sure they will be taken care of by their teammates. Also, the positive attitude everyday at practice made practice a place they looked forward to everyday. They treated practice as a break from their academic rigor and a chance to hang out with friends.
MIAC: Alissa Tinklenberg was tremendous, earning MIAC Women's Swimmer-of-the-Year honors. Talk about her performance and what she means to your team.
CARLSON: As much as Alissa inspired her teammates at meets, especially the MIAC Championships, her real impact was felt each day at practice. You need your best swimmers to set an example of work ethic and attitude. Alissa has done both by the way she goes about practice, meets and her time away from the pool. There is a lot of hard work that goes into a swim season. Alissa embraced the hard work with a sense of trust that all the hard work will pay off. This inspired confidence in the work the whole team did and resulted in some amazing performances by the whole team.
Gustavus celebrates its MIAC Championship.
(Photo by Sara Eisenhauer, St. Catherine Sports Information)
MIAC: Talk about some of the tremendous individual efforts that helped your team win. You had a  number of multi-event winners, great relay performances, and several record-breaking times.
CARLSON: One of the mottos the team adopted throughout the season was: "swim to inspire," meaning give your all when you race, and let your teammates be inspired by your effort. This guiding principle was the reason why we had so many great efforts in the water. A focus like this tends to pick up momentum, swim after swim, as the meet goes on. I was so proud of how the team gave their all every race.
The other thing that was key is, despite losing to St. Olaf and St. Thomas in dual meets during the season, we knew we had a chance to win the meet. But instead of going to the meet focused on the competition, the team went to the meet and treated it like a celebration ... a chance to spend time together and have fun! As fun as it was to win the championship, I rated the MIAC championships a success because I really believe we had a record-breaking number of smiles and laughs throughout the weekend! It was as much fun as I have ever had at a conference championship.
MIAC: A big theme of the meet for your team was "Race for Grace" as your team dedicated their performance to teammate Grace Goblirsch is battling an illness right now. Did that make your championship performance even more special? And what did you think of the support Gustavus and Grace received from the other teams and spectators?
CARLSON: I get a little teary-eyed thinking about how ALL of the other teams in the conference reached out to our team and Grace as she battles leukemia. The "Harlem Shake," dedicated to Grace was insane! The whole place erupted! I will always be grateful that I coach in a conference where every coach is thinking about what is best for the student-athletes as a whole. I can honestly say that the coaches take on the responsibility of every swimmer and diver's experience, not just their own team. I can't thank the coaches and athletes in the conference enough for the love and support they have shown Grace and our team. When the girls went up to receive their championship trophy and the whole building starting chanting: "Race for Grace" ... well, that's a memory that touched my heart and I'll never forget.
MIAC: You have Tinklenberg and others competing this weekend at the NCAA Division III Championships. What are your expectations for your team at nationals?
CARLSON: It's in Houston, so we are all hoping to come back with nice tans! Seriously though, the girls have been great in preparation and I'm looking forward to giving our best effort and letting the results be what they are. The weird thing about swimming is you have no influence on the performance of other swimmers. If anything, an inspired performance many times brings out an amazing performance in the people around you.
Again, I will measure our success by the number of smiles we have over the weekend. I think the swimming will take care of itself.
MIAC: Thanks to Coach Carlson for joining the MIAC Media Blog, and congrats to him and the Gusties on their MIAC Championship. The 2013 MIAC Swimming and Diving Championship was a tremendous three days at the University of Minnesota Aquatic Center, and the Gustavus women certainly delivered some memorable moments and top highlights.
Good luck to the Gustie swimmers and all the MIAC swimmers and divers competing this weekend at the NCAA Division III Championships in Texas! We're excited to see some tremendous times, All-American performances and outstanding efforts from the MIAC student-athletes on the national stage.

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