New varsity sports ignite championship hopes

Media Credit: Hatchet File Photo

Stephen Nelson swims to third place in the 500-yard freestyle in a meet against Georgetown last January. GW announced Sept. 3 that it will add diving to its list of varsity sports teams to help bolster the swimming program.

Athletic director Patrick Nero said Tuesday that the additions of men’s and women’s diving and track teams will give the Colonials a competitive edge.

The programs’ returns in 2014-15 support Patrick Nero’s two-year-old pledge to give every GW athletic program the chance to make a run in playoff competition. Without diving and track, the swimming and cross country teams, respectively, had slim chances to make it to postseason play, he said.

“What we’ve been doing is going through all of the teams and sitting down with the coaches and alumni, and saying, ‘What steps need to be taken to involve that particular team?” Nero said. “In the case of cross country and swimming, to allow that team to win an Atlantic 10 Championship.”

The additions represent a piece of the 2012 athletic strategic plan – now turning from plan to tangible change. That plan also called for a surge in fundraising – $1 million or more each year – and new facilities to attract higher-level recruits and coaches.

Nero said the department discussed bringing back the diving team, which was eliminated in 2009 to focus more resources on swimming, since the strategic plan process began a year and a half ago.

The swimming team’s need to bolster its roster contributed to the move. The team, without competitive divers, could not accumulate enough points to make a run at the A-10 title, Nero said. The Colonials finished in fourth place at the A-10 Championships last year, 291 points behind champion St. Bonaventure, which boasts a diving team.

A roster that expands from its current 18 members would allow for more scholarships and the steady player development, he said.

“Diving, we’ve been looking at it a little bit longer and trying to figure out how to add diving back in, just based on a statistical study,” Nero said. “It pretty much showed us that if we didn’t have diving, our opportunities to win the Atlantic 10 Championships were gonna be very, very slim.”

When looking closely at the cross country program, Nero said, coaches and alumni complained that the team’s
that the team’s could not stay competitive because it did not compete year-round.

At last year’s A-10 Championships, the men’s cross country team finished 13th, while the women’s team ended its year with a 10th place finish. Now, they’ll be able to train year round and compete in three different championships: cross country, indoor and outdoor track.

“Right now, our cross country season is so short that it’s very difficult to recruit a high-level runner and then tell them they can only compete one season,” Nero said.

Cross country head coach Terry Weir will extend his duties to the men’s and women’s track teams. His expertise with cross country runners transfers over well, Nero said, to the current focus on long-distance running.

Nero said he did not yet know where the track team would compete, but that Weir is reaching out to local tracks and is close to determining a suitable practice facility. The track team will not host meets, just like the cross country program.

It’s likely that both Weir and swimming head coach Dan Rhinehart will add assistant coaches this year, Nero said, who will focus on track and diving, respectively.

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