Swimming: men claim fourth straight CAA victory, women place second

Both teams saw swimmers break records, set personal bests and qualify for the National Collegiate Athletic Association championship. COURTESY PHOTO / TRIBE ATHLETICS.

Last week, William and Mary once again showed its prowess at the Colonial Athletic Association championship. The men won their fourth-straight championship title, dominating the pool and beating out second-place finisher Drexel by well over 200 points. The women were edged into second place by James Madison, but both teams saw swimmers break records, set personal bests and qualify for the National Collegiate Athletic Association championship.

The men started their championship win off strong with a first place 200 medley relay run, clocking in at 1:28.07 and featuring the talents of senior Wyatt Grubb, freshman Devin McNulty, sophomore Jack Doherty and sophomore Colin Wright.

The 800 free relay was another resounding win for the Tribe, with junior Eric Grimes, junior Carter Kale, sophomore Ben Skopic and senior Kyle Neri clocking in at 6:33.00 for the sixth fastest time in College history. This gold marked the eighth-straight time the Tribe men have won this event, which is the longest relay winning streak in CAA history.

Although the Tribe swept the relays Wednesday, it went into Thursday’s events ranked fifth overall because of the diving events held that day.

Heading out of the preliminaries Thursday morning, the College advanced 14 swimmers to that evening’s finals. Although the Tribe started the day in last place, its performance in the preliminary round put it in first place heading into finals, leading Drexel by 47 points.

The College put two swimmers on the podium in the first event of the evening, the 500 freestyle finals. Kale took second place with a time of 4:26.72, the ninth-fastest in school history. Grimes took third, clocking in at 4:26.83.

In the 200 IM finals, the top four finishers, including two members of the Tribe, all qualified for the NCAA championship. Skopic took third with a lifetime best and school record-breaker of 1:46.36. Freshman Jake Kealy swam in 1:49.00, placing fourth with a lifetime best of his own. Senior Conrad Zamparello (1:49.99) and sophomore Lee Bradley (1:51.34) likewise ended up with the best scores of their careers in this event, placing seventh and 11th, respectively.

The Tribe completely swept the podium in the 50 free finals for the second year in a row. Wright took first with a time of 19.76, the fourth-fastest time in school history. Sophomore Ian Thompson placed second with 19.92, marking the fifth-fastest time in school history. Doherty ended in third with the eighth-fastest time in school history, clocking in at 20.12. All three of them qualified for the NCAA championships.

The night ended with the 200 freestyle relay, which the College dominated, breaking both the CAA and school records set by last year’s relay team. The team made up of Wright, Thompson, Doherty and senior Tommy Kealy placed first with a time of 1:18.95.

By the end of the night, the Tribe was leading second-place Drexel by 66 points. Friday morning, the College extended this lead to 165 points, advancing all 19 swimmers it had put in the pool on to finals.

Skopic swam a lifetime best 3:50.17 for first place in the 400 IM finals. Sophomore Ian Bidwell took third in that event, closely followed by Zamparello, the teammates clocking in at 3:54.20 and 3:54.21, respectively.

In the 100 fly finals, Doherty took second and qualified for the NCAA championships with his 48.17, which is the 10th-fastest time in school history. Thompson swam a lifetime best 48.35 for third place in this event.

The Tribe saw yet another swimmer on the podium in the 200 free finals, where Wright took second with his lifetime best time of 1:37.80. This time was the sixth-fastest in school history and was good enough to qualify him for the NCAA championships.

The 100 breaststroke finals were the only finals event in the men’s championship in which the College didn’t place an athlete on the podium. McNulty took fifth with his time of 55.53 and junior Brooks Peterson’s career-best 56.07 placed him in sixth.

In the 100 backstroke finals, sophomore Colin Demers qualified for the NCAA championships with his second-place finish, clocking in at 48.24. Jake took third, swimming the event in 49.15.

Friday night, the Tribe once again broke relay records with the 400 medley relay team of Demers, McNulty, Doherty and Wright. The relay team placed first, with a time of 3:13.29 that broke both the school and CAA records. By the end of the night, the Tribe had extended its overall lead even further and was leading second-place Drexel 619-518.

Saturday morning, the College doubled this lead during the preliminary and advanced all 21 swimmers put in the pool on to finals.

In the 1,650 freestyle finals, Kale took first, his 15:30.01 finish clocking in as the fifth-fastest in school history and qualifying him for the NCAA championships. Sophomore Chris Balbo finished in 15:34.06, leaving him in third place with the eighth-fastest time in College history.

The Tribe had even more athletes qualify for the NCAA championship Saturday morning, this time in the 200 back finals. Jake Kealy placed second in this event, with an NCAA-qualifying time of 1:45.92. In the 100 free finals, Wright posted an NCAA-qualifying time of his own, his 44.21 second-place finish clocking in as the fourth-fastest time in school history.

The College saw athletes place third in both of the last two individual events of the meet. Peterson swam the 200 breast for a lifetime best of 2:01.39. In the 200 butterfly, Tommy Kealy qualified for the NCAA championships with the ninth-fastest time in Tribe history, clocking in at 1:47.53.

The last event of the conference championship marked yet another win for the Tribe. The College’s 400 free relay team of Doherty, Wright, Neri and Thompson made history with its first-place time of 2:56.51. This event marked a CAA and school record as the Tribe became the first men’s team in the CAA to ever take first place in all five relays in the same meet.

Ending on that history-making win, the men came out of their championship run with 946 points, beating out Drexel (703), Towson (566), UNC-Wilmington (525) and Delaware (349). Head coach Matt Crispino ’02 was awarded the honor of men’s swim coach of the year for the fifth-straight time.

The women had similarly strong performances throughout the meet, but ended up in second place as they were unable to make up for the points first-place James Madison gained in the meet’s diving events. The College does not have any divers on either the men’s or women’s teams. While the men overcame the deficit created by other teams’ divers, the women fell just short.

Wednesday, the College started off strong, medaling in both relays. The 200 medley relay team made up of junior Katie Sell, senior Annie Valls, senior Abby Mack and junior Annie Miller placed third with a time of 1:40.58. This relay marked the third-fastest time in College history.

In the 800 free relay, the Tribe took first place with a time of 7:15.12. This was the second-fastest time for this event in school history and the team of freshman Megan Bull, junior Morgan Smith, freshman Tara Tiernan and junior Maria Oceguera propelled the College to a victory in the 800 for only the fifth time in the history of Tribe swimming. Since the men also won the 800 free, this meet marks the first time since 2001 that the same school has won both the men’s and women’s 800s.

The Tribe followed up its history-making Wednesday performance by advancing more athletes than any other school in the meet, as it sent 11 swimmers from preliminaries to finals Thursday morning.

The Tribe followed up its history-making Wednesday performance by advancing more athletes than any other school in the meet.

Bull gained the College’s only conference title that day, taking first in the 500 freestyle finals. Her time of 4:46.92 broke the school record, qualified her for the NCAA championship and shattered her lifetime best by more than two seconds.

The Tribe’s other athlete to make the podium Thursday was senior Shannon Harrington, who took third in the 200 IM finals. Her time of 2:02.43 marked a lifetime best for Harrington and clocked in as the fifth-fastest time in the College’s history.

The College did not see the podium in the last two events of the day. Miller led the way for the Tribe in the 50 free finals, placing fourth and touching the wall after 23.06. The 200 free relay team made up of Sell, Bull, Miller and Mack clocked in at 1:32.10, placing fourth.

Friday, the Tribe started off strong, advancing 16 swimmers from prelims to finals, once again a number higher than any other school in attendance. After the preliminary swims, the College trailed the Dukes by only 11 points. In the finals events Friday, results were mixed for the Tribe as it medaled in some events but missed the podium by a few spots in others.

In the 400 IM finals, Smith’s lifetime best was enough to win her the gold, marking the first time the Tribe has won that event since 2007. Her 4:19.88 finish marked the second-fastest time in school history. Mack was the leader for the College in the 100 butterfly, placing second with a time of 54.83.

The Tribe did not fare as well in the 200 freestyle or 100 breaststroke. Bull was the College’s top athlete in the 200, placing sixth with a time of 1:50.19. Senior Jess Crowley’s breaststroke time of 1:04.32 made her the Tribe’s top finisher and landed her in seventh place.

Sell helped the College see the podium for the last time of the day in the 100 backstroke finals. She set a personal best of 55.23 to take third place.

The 400 medley relay took fifth to close out Friday night’s competition. The team of Sell, Harrington, Mack and Miller clocked in at 3:44.11.

Saturday, the Tribe started out in the lead 12 points ahead of James Madison and Towson, both tied for second place. However, the Dukes were able to accrue 129 points in the diving events that the College was unable to surpass with swimming points.

Smith started the finals competition off well for the Tribe, taking third place in the 1,650 freestyle. Her time of 16:51.88 was the 11th-fastest in school history.

In the 200 backstroke, Tiernan led the way for the Tribe, placing sixth with a time of 2:01.47. Sell set a new lifetime best in the 100 freestyle finals, taking fourth place with her time of 50.18.

Harrington was the next swimmer to medal for the College, taking third place in the 200 breaststroke, her 2:16.36 clocking in as the ninth-fastest time in school history. Oceguera also garnered the bronze Saturday, placing third in the 200 butterfly finals. Her lifetime best of 1:59.92 was enough to put her as the third fastest in school history.

Saturday night ended with the 400 free relay just missing the podium. Sell, Bull, Miller and Tiernan posted a time of 3:23.96 to take fourth for the Tribe.

Although the women earned more points in swimming events than any other school in attendance, the Tribe was unable to surpass the diving points that put the Dukes ahead. After Tribe victories in both 2016 and 2017, the Dukes stole the CAA this year with 656 points, the College taking second with 583 points. However, the Tribe came out ahead of the other five teams in attendance: Towson (562.5), Northeastern (477.5), Drexel (443), UNC-Wilmington (374) and Delaware (227).

The swimmers who qualified for the NCAA championships will represent the College in March. The women will compete in Columbus, Ohio March 14-17 and the men will travel to Minneapolis, Minnesota to compete March 21-24.


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