Head coach Dan Rhinehart said he implored his team to bring a “life-or-death” mentality to Saturday’s meet against Georgetown.
Following the diving events, in which GW did not compete, the Colonial men and women trailed the Hoyas by 32 and 18 points, respectively, but both rallied for gritty wins. The women’s team claimed a one-point 147-146 win, while the men tallied a 145-135 victory.
“We knew on paper the teams lined up evenly,” Rhinehart said, “[But] Georgetown had an advantage on diving.”
Coming off the distance races, the team took their coach’s temperament and applied it with first, second and third place finishes in the 1000-yard freestyle from junior Caroline Myers, freshman Riley LeBlanc and freshman Madison Reinker, respectively. The same three swimmers swept the 500-yard freestyle, and Myers claimed first in the 200-free.
“They were pivotal points, getting us on the upswing in the 500 [freestyle] and bringing us home in the 1000,” Rhinehart said.
The men’s 200-yard butterfly came next, along with GW’s next display of luck, skill and nerve. As freshman Oliver Keegan readied himself the block in lane four for the Colonials – their fastest lane – he faltered. To lose his balance here and fall forward would be a disqualification, but he prevailed, regained his composure and balance and with a slow start, advanced effortlessly and swam to first place, winning admiration and applause from the stands.
Keegan, junior Jake Mortensen and sophomore Garrett Cottingham each won three
events to pace GW. But this was a team effort, captain and senior Phillip Graeter said.
“You get the sense that [Georgetown] is the big rival, and with a home
advantage for the Hoyas, we had to bring our all,” Graeter said.
The breaststroke events proved to be a strong ones for Cottingham, who captured first place finishes in both the 100 and 200-yard breast. He credited his performance to the team’s winter break training trip in Puerto Rico, where he said he perfected his competition racing.
As Cottingham came off the final turn in both races, it was evident he swam them smartly, exerting fully at the final turns and garnering momentum to pull ahead of the competition.
For the women, sophomore Janica Lee held off Georgetown for a first-place finish in the 200-yard breast.
“I just went for it. I knew what I had to do for the team and gave it my all,” Lee said.
Rhinehart instilled that sense of camaraderie in his team, consistently reminding his swimmers of the team effort and keeping it at the forefront of their mind. It was a powerful tool in a successful bid for victory.
With the Hoyas and Colonials neck-and-neck, the meet came down to the relays, and the energy was there. A first-place finish in the 200-yard freestyle relay from the Colonial women, followed by a second place finish in the men’s event, was enough to capture victory over Georgetown.
With the last dual meet of the season in a week against George Mason, Rhinehart is looking to keep the momentum going.
“As a team, we’re looking to move up on the ladder. We have a solid core of competitors, and with some luck, everyone can stay healthy and we can transition into training for A-10’s,” Rhinehart said.