The pair of Atlantic 10 Swimming and Diving Championship banners hanging side-by-side in the Smith Center pool will need to be pushed over to make room for a new addition.
Men’s swimming and diving captured its third A-10 Swimming and Diving Championship in as many years over the weekend after dominating the four-day meet in Geneva, Ohio. George Mason took second place with 613 points.
The Colonials racked up 782 team points in the win – the highest win total since Massachusetts nabbed the crown in 2008 with 791.50 points – and set six A-10 records on its way to 22 total medals across the meet. GW also earned five gold medals across five relay races in the meet.
The win is the first championship crown under first-year head coach Brian Thomas, who took the helm of the program in July.
“The type of performances that they had were extremely impressive, they were blowing away best times, school records, A-10 records – I didn’t necessarily expect that,” Thomas said. “I knew we’d swim pretty well, I thought we’d probably win the meet, but the way that we won it was surprising to me just in the level of success that we had and really just blowing it out of the water.”
Thomas was honored as Men’s Swimming Coach of the Year, while junior Moritz Fath was tabbed Men’s Most Outstanding Swimmer Performer.
Sophomore diver Peter Nachtwey’s gold – the first No. 1 finish for a GW diver since 1994 – and silver medal performances on the 3-meter board and the 1-meter board, respectively, earned him the title of Most Outstanding Diver in the meet.
“This group probably had a difficult task ahead of them knowing that there’s a transition in coaching staff but also working with some expectations that have been set by the previous two teams that have won A-10 titles,” Thomas said. “For them to come up and be able to achieve that again was excellent.”
The win continues a new tradition of success for the swimming and diving program at GW.
Just two years ago, the Colonials pulled together their first-ever A-10 Championship under then-second-year head coach James Winchester after finishing fifth in the conference meet the previous season. Fath earned Most Outstanding Rookie Performer in his two-gold effort that year.
The Colonials repeated their championship win last season, beating George Mason – the next closest competitor – by 148 points and setting at least four new conference records in the meet. GW was led by 2018-graduate Gustav Hokfelt, who tallied seven individual and relay gold medals in the meet.
“We’ve replaced last year’s seniors, which was kind of hard with Gustav leaving, but we had people step up and everyone did their job and did everything they could,” Fath said. “And it ended up turning out pretty well.”
The Colonials were tabbed to defend their crown in this year’s preseason poll despite losing their head coach and one of the strongest swimmers in program history in Hokfelt, but swimmers said they used that to propel them toward success.
“Coming into this year, I told the guys, ‘people are going to think that it might have just been the old coach or it might just have been a fluke and now that we have the coaching change, we’re not going to be able to do it again,'” senior Patrick Lersch said. “And I told them, ‘use that as motivation to just go out there and prove them all wrong.'”
GW was coming into the meet off a loss to Virginia Tech and Cincinnati. Thomas said the team was battling minor injuries at the tri-meet and fighting illness about a week before the A-10 meet.
“That can be something that really derails the team,” Thomas said. “But they overcame that, so it was really honestly probably a product of veteran leadership.”
The Colonials took a commanding lead in the championship in the first day of competition Wednesday, racking up 122 team points and two gold medals to distance themselves from the second-place Patriots with 104 points.
GW got its first taste of gold in the 200-yard medley relay Friday, finishing the event with a new conference-best split of 1:27.06, besting the record GW set at the competition last season.
The men’s team continued to dominate the pool in the second day of competition, tacking on 161 points to the team total and three more gold medals to lead the conference with 283 points, 26 points more than second-place George Mason.
“Mentally, it was kind of hard the first and second day because we knew that we were going to be challenged by George Mason,” Fath said.
The Colonials collected five more gold medals on the men’s side Thursday to grow their already substantial lead among conference competition.
“After the second day of finals, we sat down together as a team and talked it through and we just had to be fearless and stand behind each other more than any other team,” Fath said. “I think that’s what made the difference in the end.”
By the time the final day of competition rolled around, the Colonials were sitting comfortably in first place but did not take their foot off the gas pedal, sweeping the podium in the 1,650-yard freestyle and 100-yard freestyle while tacking on another gold medal in the 400-yard freestyle relay. GW collected a total of nine medals in all Saturday.
Thomas said on the bus ride back to Foggy Bottom, he was thinking about how close the team is coming to cracking into the top 25 in the nation.
“First and foremost, if we continue to focus on being the best version of ourselves, we’ll have success,” Thomas said.