p. Fairfax, Va. — Seconds before she swam the anchor of the women’s 400-yard freestyle relay at Saturday night’s CAA Championship, sophomore Katie Radloff calmly stepped up on the block in lane four. With the same poised demeanor she exuded prior to her CAA record-setting performance in the 100-yard freestyle earlier in the evening, Radloff prepared to dive into the water and reclaim the lead for the Tribe.
Opposite Radloff in lane three stood Towson University junior Hillary Rieveley, who witnessed her teammates build a comfortable edge over the Tribe in the standings ladder during the first three days of the meet and again during the first three lengths of the 400-relay.
While Rieveley needed only to validate Towson’s apparent championship title with a relay victory, Radloff and the Tribe had much at stake. A win would potentially bump the women into second-place over the University of North Carolina–Wilmington, a team the College trailed by only seven points prior to the 400-relay, the final event of the four-day meet. A loss would be devastating for the Tribe, after the team had entered the meet with high hopes of repeating as CAA champions, but now had to face the unwelcome prospect of a third-place finish.
With second place on the line, Radloff caught up to Rieveley in the last 15 yards of the race and then surged past her in a frenetic sprint to the finish line.
“[Rieveley] went out too fast and then I had a good chance to catch up to her in the end,” Radloff said. “It was a big adrenaline rush to win.”
The Tribe edged Towson by .45 seconds, but more importantly the relay win earned them 40 points, while seventh-place UNCW garnered only 24 points and dropped to third overall.
Radloff’s last second heroics were a small victory in what was primarily an uphill battle from the beginning of the meet for the College. Wednesday night, the Tribe’s 800-yard freestyle relay team, consisting of sophomore Lindsay Guers, senior Christina Monsees, junior Marina Falcone and Radloff finished second to Towson by three seconds despite coasting to the top seed during morning preliminaries nine seconds ahead of the Tigers.
“We all thought we were going to win the race easily and then we ended up losing badly,” Radloff said.
After the first day of competition, the Tribe women were tied for sixth place out of nine teams. They clawed their way back into third Thursday after Radloff won the 50-yard freestyle in 22.61 seconds, a CAA record. She also was the anchor of the 400-yard medley relay squad that captured a bronze medal. Friday, Radloff set a conference record in the 200-yard freestyle. Later in the evening, she helped the 200-yard freestyle relay team, which includes freshman Emily Burns, Guers and Falcone, earn a school, pool, conference and championship meet record.
“It was a tough meet because Towson swam so fast and we got a little shell-shocked by it,” Head Coach Matt Crispino said. “It took us a little while to bounce back and it wasn’t until Friday that we started swimming well. At that point, it was too late.”
Towson ran away from the rest of the conference, finishing with 753.5 points compared to 470 for the Tribe. After setting three individual CAA championship meet records, Radloff was named Swimmer of the Meet for a second year in a row.
While the women rallied to place second, the Tribe men struggled for most of the meet to catch up to UNCW, which easily won its eighth-straight championship with 702 points.
Two disqualifications prevented the Tribe from advancing in the standings. The first occurred in Thursday’s 400-yard medley relay. The second and more costly error came Saturday during the final event of the meet, the 400-yard freestyle relay. Consisting of sophomore Kevin Gallagher, freshman Geoff Ramsdell, junior Nader Amer and grad student Nick Duda, the relay team finished third but later were penalized when officials determined that Ramsdell dove off the block one one-hundredths of a second before his teammate touched the wall. Both penalties dropped the Tribe into last place of seven teams.
“It was about as heartbreaking and gut-wrenching as it comes,” Duda said of the second disqualification, which occurred in his final collegiate race. “I couldn’t believe we rallied to get third place [prior to the disqualification]. It’s hard enough to get a medal, let alone have them hand you one and yank it away after you get it.”
Despite a last-place finish, the Tribe men had several standout performances. Friday, Duda and the men’s 200-yard freestyle relay team earned a silver medal in school-record time. Saturday, junior Shawn Matthews broke another school record and captured a bronze medal in the 200-yard backstroke.
“I think that we swam as well as we could this year, with a lot of injuries and some limited resources compared to the rest of the conference,” Crispino said of the men and women’s performances. “I think we’re capable of more in the future, but I’m happy with the way the year ended up.”
Final Championship Standings
1. UNC Wilmington – 702
2. Old Dominion – 586
3. Delaware – 505
4. George Mason – 480.5
5. Drexel – 416
6. Towson – 356.5
7. William and Mary – 301
1. Towson – 753.5
2. William and Mary – 470
3. UNC Wilmington – 461
4. George Mason – 438
5. Northeastern – 341.5
6. Delaware – 341
7. James Madison – 324
8. Old Dominion – 227
9. Drexel – 221