College swimming is like a box of chocolates — good all year, but really only taking on special significance around February.
For William and Mary, Saturday’s dual meet against Eastern Carolina was the Tribe’s last tune-up before the CAA Championships in late February. And while the College fell to the Pirates in both the men’s (159.5-138.5) and the women’s (157-141) meets, there were signs of encouragement as the season comes to a close.
“It was a fantastic meet for us across the board, both men and women,” Head Coach Matt Crispino said. “We kept the meet very close and we were almost able to eek out a win there at the end. Even the East Carolina coach said he was impressed with the way we swam. On paper, were supposed to lose by 100 points, but we only lost by 20 or so.”
For the women, junior Hailey Hewitt continued her stellar season, as she took first in both the 200-meter backstroke and the 100-meter butterfly events. Hewitt finished in the 200-meter backstroke with a time of 2 minutes, 2.4 seconds while setting a Rec Pool record, and also took first in the 100-meter butterfly with a mark of 57.70.
Hewitt’s two wins ties her for fifth all time in Tribe history with 59 career victories. The junior also led the College this season with 20 individual victories.
“Hailey’s strength is that she is incredibly consistent,” Crispino said. “She always able to step in there in the 200 back or the 100 fly and be really competitive against anybody she swims against. The thing she has developed this year has been versatility.”
Junior Molly Emery also picked up two victories at the meet, finishing first in the 500 freestyle with a time of 5:01.01 and first in the Individual Medley with a time of 2:06.87, respectively. Freshman Jennifer Bentely took first-place in the 1,000-meter freestyle, while freshmen Emily Bart and Kayla O’Malley finished first in the 200-meter breast stroke and the 200 butterfly events.
The Tribe also claimed a team win in the 200-meter freestyle relay.
On the men’s side, freshman Andrew Strait took first in three events, allowing him to finish the year with a team-high ten individual victories. Strait finished first in the 100-meter breaststroke with a mark of 57.45, while also taking home first place in the 200-meter breaststroke (2:05.71) and the 200 Individual Medley (1:53.66).
“We saw this coming a long time ago,” Crispino said. “We were waiting for him to have a breakout performance, a breakout meet and we knew he could do it since day one. We hope this now gives him confidence going into CAAs.”
Sophomore Ben Ward finished first in the 50 and the 100-meter freestyle events, while sophomores Hunter Perot and Kyle McVeigh finished first in the 200 and 500-meter freestyle events.
The Tribe also touched first in the 200-meter freestyle relay, finishing with a time 1:25.21.
While the meet certainly showed signs of his team’s improvement, Crispino knows it is time for his team to turn it on as the Tribe heads into its postseason meets.
“One thing we have talked about all year long is doing our best,” Crispino said. “In swimming, you can’t control what the other team is doing. Our plan is to go to CAAs and swim as well as we can… I’m not going to sit here and tell you we are trying to win a team title, because that is probably not realistic. But we have multiple chances to win individual titles, multiple chances to win relay titles.”