The GW men’s and women’s swimming and diving teams are hoping to improve on their finishes at last year’s Atlantic 10 Championships as they visit Buffalo, N.Y., this weekend to compete for the 1999 conference title.
The men’s team hopes to avenge a close loss to Massachusetts in last year’s championship, when the Minutemen edged the Colonials 645.5 to 642.
GW head coach Dan Rhinehart said a lot of swimmers from last year’s UMass squad graduated, but the strength of several other teams in the conference – including St. Bonaventure, La Salle, Virginia Tech and Fordham – makes this year’s championship a wide-open meet. UMass will try to earn its fourth consecutive A-10 Championship.
“No one’s a clear No. 1,” Rhinehart said. “Given the strength of our times, we’re probably a little bit of a favorite.”
GW dominates the Atlantic 10 honor roll like no other team in the conference. It holds seven of the best times in the 14 swimming events and has conference-bests in four of the five relay events.
Leading the men’s squad will be juniors Tim Champney and Juan Bocanegra, who was the Most Outstanding Performer at last year’s A-10 meet. Champney finished the season with top conference times for the 50-yard freestyle (:21.07), the 100-yard backstroke (:49.73) and the 200-yard freestyle (1:41.17). Bocanegra has been a consistent contributing force for the Colonials. He has recorded the best times in the A-10 for the 200-yard individual medley (1:52.71) and the 100-yard butterfly (:50.68).
On the women’s side, GW will have difficulty overcoming talented teams from St. Bonaventure and Virginia Tech. Last season, the Colonial women finished third with a total of 482.5, almost 300 points behind the second-place Hokies. The Bonnies are trying to win their fourth consecutive title.
GW has posted just one conference-best time this season – Brandyn Roark in the 50-yard freestyle (:23.87), and has the second-best time in five of the 16 individual events.
The strengths of the Colonial women are their depth and the relay events. GW has at least three of the top 10 swims of the year in eight events and has either the first- or second-best time in all five relays.
“Realistically, I expect us to finish third,” Rhinehart said. “But we could scare a few people.” Rhinehart said he does not think the gap between GW and the top teams will be as wide as it was last season.
Both teams are preparing to go into the championships well-rested and in peak shape.
“The middle part of the season, we were swimming pretty hard,” Rhinehart said. “For the end, we have been tapering, which includes cutting down on the yardage in addition to lots of rest and relaxation.”
The championships will take place Thursday, Friday and Saturday at the Flickinger Aquatic Center in Buffalo, hosted by St. Bonaventure.