Updated: Feb. 25, 2019 at 4:21 p.m.
Women’s swimming and diving took second place at the Atlantic 10 Championship – marking the team’s best showing at the meet in 18 years.
The Colonials set two conference records and finished with 562 total points over the four days of competition, which concluded Saturday, 114.5 points more than their third-place finish last year and just 18.5 points fewer than Duquesne – the meet’s top squad.
The No. 2 finish matches the program’s best-ever result in its fourth consecutive year of major improvement. Last season, GW took third – three spots higher than its sixth-place finish in 2016-17 and six spots higher than its ninth-place finish in 2015-16.
“In terms of the improvement and the steady improvement that the team’s seen, it’s been pretty epic for the last four years,” head coach Brian Thomas said. “To go from 10th, 11th place up to second is really, really cool and something that our seniors can really hang their hat on.”
Thomas said the narrow spread between first and second place is a “good motivator” for his team in the coming years.
“I just keep thinking about 18.5 points,” Thomas said. “I’m not really over-evaluating anything other than it stings because we’re really close.”
The women walked away with 13 total medals on the weekend, including six gold medals, and two conference records to their name.
Senior Emily Zhang – who has been with the team since its ninth-place finish in 2016 – earned seven medals. She said the team’s cohesion played a large factor in the Colonials’ success in the pool.
“Part of it is a little surreal but at the same time we’ve worked for every single ounce of it,” Zhang said. “Especially this year, we’ve really come together as a women’s team and supported each other really well which is why I think we got second.”
Six points separated first place from third for the women’s teams on the opening day of competition Wednesday with Duquesne sitting in first with 72 points, Fordham trailing with 70 points and the Colonials occupying third place with 66 points.
“It was us, Duquesne, Fordham and Richmond going back and forth at every single session, which is why we hammered home that every single swim really mattered to us,” Zhang said.
The Colonials jumped into second place Thursday with 206 team points following an A-10 record-setting outing in the 200-yard freestyle relay. Zhang, sophomore Meghan Burton, freshman Rebecca Smolcic and senior Caroline Racke pulled together a 1:31.53 finish in the relay to ink their names in the A-10 record books.
GW racked up four additional medals Friday thanks to gold-medal performances by Zhang in the 200-yard freestyle and Burton in the 100-yard butterfly, allowing the Colonials to pull away from Fordham.
The silver-medal performance was solidified Saturday with a gold medal in the 400-yard freestyle relay, with a time of 3:21.16.
Thomas said part of the women’s success came from strong showings from the team’s rookies like freshman Andrea Moussier, who won gold in the 1,650-yard freestyle with a time of 16:40.96.
“From the underclassmen, I just saw a lot of grit,” Zhang said.
Thomas said going forward, his staff would take up the responsibility of continuing to move the program along the same trajectory it has been on in recent years.
“We didn’t want to take a step backward and even a step sideways,” Thomas said. “So I was happy we could do that. But I think they’re motivated. There’s definitely a sting to it when you come up that short or that close.”
This post was updated to reflect the following correction:
The Hatchet incorrectly identified the athlete in the photo as Caroline Racke. The photo features Sydney Melnick. We regret this error.