After nabbing podium finishes at the Atlantic 10 Championship last season, men’s and women’s swimming and diving looked to carry momentum into their first fall performances.
The men’s team embarks on defending its third consecutive A-10 Conference crown, and the women look to top the conference after coming off a second-place finish in last year’s championship. Swimmers said their previous conference success motivates them to heighten their training and top their performances this season.
“There has always been high expectations within our program, because our program has been successful in the past,” senior swimmer Andrew Cho said. “I don’t think it’s added pressure, I think it’s more motivation. I feel like we’re going to use that to fuel and drive us through the season.”
For the third year in a row, GW kicked off its season at the Florida International University Fall Classic in Miami Friday. Only nine swimmers and two divers from each squad competed.
The women’s squad nabbed fifth, down a place from last season’s fourth-place finish. The men’s team held steady compared to last season, earning another third-place finish.
With a seven-team field, the opening meet exposed the Colonials to nonconference competition. LSU, Texas Chrisian University, Florida Atlantic, Army, Pitt, Grand Canyon and Keiser all faced the Colonials Friday.
“Anytime we can seek out competition that’s probably better than us is a great day,” head coach Brian Thomas said. “Matching up with some teams shows that we’re not afraid to do that.”
Thomas added that last year, the FIU Fall Classic provided an opportunity for him to get to know the team and gain confidence in his role as the head coach of both programs.
“I specifically remember driving home from the airport thinking what a valuable experience it was for me getting to know all of our athletes, and maybe for them getting a little bit of trust and understanding how we do it,” Thomas said.
Cho said the team adjusted well to the new coaching staff, and swimmers and divers have fully bought into Thomas’ training that focuses on bulking up basic skills through drills.
“They’ve incorporated themselves within our team really well, so we’ve molded it into whatever program that they desired and that’s added to our successes last season,” Cho said. “So this season, I don’t think it’s really an adjustment anymore, it’s adding onto what we built last year.”
For the first time in program history, both the men’s and women’s teams are poised to grab a conference crown. Both squads were picked as the preseason conference favorites in the annual coaches’ preseason poll.
Cho called the preseason poll “amazing” because both the men’s and women’s teams are receiving recognition for their hard work.
“It’s definitely amazing to see the other coaches in the Atlantic 10 recognizing our women’s team and the success they’ve had,” Cho said.
Junior swimmer Andrea Ho said now that the squad has acclimated to Thomas’ leadership, the team can set clearer expectations for the year.
“The initial adjustment period was kind of short, because as people started to figure out what was going on and how we were moving, it got better,” Ho said. “This year has been really good, because everybody came in knowing what to expect and just started putting in the effort.”
Although the men’s team has enjoyed a long run of dominance, the women’s team is beginning to rise to the same level. The squad has been on an upward trajectory since the 2014-15 season, nabbing 11th in 2015, ninth in 2016, sixth in 2017, third in 2018 and second in 2019 at the A-10 Championship.
Ho said because the team missed its first-ever conference championship last year by a mere 18-and-a-half points, the squad was “hungrier” to start the season and win the championship outright.
“Last year, we were also slated to be in the top four,” Ho said. “We knew it would be a really good fight for whoever came out on top, so I think this year just being picked first against you can really help motivate us.”
The men’s and women’s squads will continue their season Oct. 18 against Towson, Navy and Johns Hopkins in Annapolis, Md. The meet is slated for 4 p.m.