Billed as a swimming contest between George Washington and George Mason, Senior Day Sunday at the Charles E. Smith Center became more of a celebration than an intense competition.
Before the meet began, the four seniors from the men’s and women’s teams were honored by their teammates, who lined up in pairs and, facing one another, used their outstretched arms to form a human tunnel. Their graduating teammates – Andrew Maguire, Sarah Beggs, Paola Leor and Noelle Miesfeld – passed through to a chorus of applause, and collected bouquets of flowers at the opposite end.
“Throughout the whole season they’ve just been like the motor of the team,” women’s swimming assistant coach Lauren Fuchs said of the senior class. “They’re the ones who hold everyone together when everyone’s dropping out tired. There’s only a few and they’ve done the work of 10.”
Men’s assistant coach Shea Manning believes both the men’s and women’s swimmers form a “close-knit” group which thrives on its solidarity.
“We really look at it as one team,” Manning said. “I think the guys still look up to the three women. And the underclassmen women look up to Andrew as well. If the guys are swimming good, that’s going to inspire the women. And vice versa, too.”
“The group is never going to be like this again,” Manning said, emphasizing Senior Day as an opportunity for the team to compete together one last time, while gearing up for the Atlantic 10 Championship.
The home meet was the Colonials’ first since October at the renovated Smith Center, and even though the men’s team lost 132-127 and the women’s team fell 132-126, the meet was not without bright spots for the Colonials.
The women’s team was led by Leor, who won the 50 and 100-yard freestyle as well as the 100-yard butterfly. Leor was also a member of the Colonials’ first place 200-yard freestyle relay. The Miami native wrapped up her GW career with three school records, including the 50-yard freestyle, 100-yard freestyle and the 200-yard individual medley. She was also named the women’s swimming MVP in each of her three previous seasons.
On the men’s side, GW took the top three spots in the 50-yard freestyle, with junior Marshall Seedorff, freshman Niccolo Wilson and sophomore Luke Quimby finishing in first, second and third, respectively.
“It was a positive note for us, I think,” Fuchs said. “As they went through the meet and realized that they have the ability to fight and stay even with them, they just got even more confident.”
Former GW swim coach Carl Cox, who watched from the stands as the Colonials competed, added a familiar presence to the already festive atmosphere. Cox coached the men’s and women’s swim teams from 1976-89, and was inducted into the GW Athletic Hall of Fame in 1997. Dan Rhinehart, GW’s current head coach, greeted Cox’s small grandchildren, who accompanied him to the meet, with gold GW swim caps.
“[I’m] trying to influence their future,” Rhinehart said.
After splitting their meet Saturday afternoon by topping Howard but falling to Towson and then falling to George Mason Sunday, the Colonials will now enter their taper period, when they will rest in preparation for the A-10 Championship meet, which begins Feb. 23, and is hosted by St. Bonaventure in Buffalo, N.Y.