The tone was set early in Saturday's meet against visiting Georgetown. First the women's team, then the men's, swam to victory in the 400-yard medley to open competition, an early statement for GW's focus and drive on the day's competition.
Aided by the cheering crowd, it was an opening salvo that provided a shot of energy, pushing the Colonials to equally decisive defeats of their District rivals, the women’s team claiming first with a 132-129 margin, and the men’s team swimming to a 141-113 victory.
“The first relays we won were confidence boosters for the rest of the meet," sophomore Lindsay Moore said, "and we just built off of that.”
It was an intense meet for both teams, given the history of fierce competition between the two programs. After watching the squads trade victories over the past few seasons, head coach Dan Rhinehart knew to expect an emotional, tightly contested meet.
Last season, the Colonials traveled to the Hoyas' pool and returned to Foggy Bottom without a victory. But the rivals' most recent history didn’t trouble GW Saturday afternoon, entering the pool confident and determined to perform on what was also Senior Day, honoring men's senior Marshall Seedorff and women's seniors Sameera Al Bitar and Carolyn Mehrtens.
“We weren’t really nervous because we knew what we could do, and we were at home,” junior Phillip Graeter said.
Before the meet, both teams wasted no time setting the tone for the day pre-competition. Georgetown entered, rallying loudly, complete with synchronized chants, and the Colonials joined the deck from their locker room, quickly matching the Hoyas in volume and excitement.
But underneath the energized front, GW's women’s team hid their concern. Three of the Colonials’ strongest swimmers, freshman Janica Lee and sophomores Sloan and Sydney Saunders were unable to compete due to injury – but Rhinehart said the rest of his roster made up for the absences.
“We had kids out with injuries, but the rest of swimmers stepped up big time,” Rhinehart said.
Seedorff led much of the meet on the men’s side during his last competition in the Smith Center, picking up points for the Colonials with a first place win in the 50-yard freestyle and aiding in GW's first place wins in the 400-yard medley relay and 400-yard free relay. Despite his bittersweet feeling as Seedorff departed the Smith Center pool for the last time, he was confident the team was being left in good hands.
“We have a lot of strong juniors that will step up next year. This is the strongest team I’ve had all four years I have been here,” Seedorff said.
One of those juniors is Graeter, who was quick to add to GW’s lead with first-place wins in the 200-yard butterfly and backstroke along with the 200-yard individual medley.
On the women’s side, sophomore Caroline Myers posted a strong performance in her home pool, leading with first place wins in the 1000-yard and 500-yard freestyle relays, 400-yard individual medley and the 400-yard freestyle. Moore, too, contributed for the Colonials, placing first in the 100-yard and 200-yard backstroke, and lending a hand for another first-place win in the 400-yard medley relay.
The win against Georgetown, a true team effort, gives the team a boost of energy as it prepares to transition into championship competition. It’s been a strong season, Rhinehart said, but the Colonials are not yet satisfied.
“We have one more dual meet against George Mason, and then we can sit back and rest and transition into the next training, so at A-10 we can shock a few people,” Rhinehart said. “None of us are satisfied. Our goal is to step up on the ladder every year.”
This article was updated on Jan. 23, 2011 to reflect the following:
The Hatchet incorrectly reported that senior Carolyn Mehrtens had first place wins in the 1000-yard and 500-yard freestyle relays, 400-yard individual medley and the 400-yard freestyle. The sentence should have stated that sophomore Caroline Myers took first in those events.