As the 2019 schedule of men’s and women’s swimming and diving winds down, the teams are prioritizing health and maintaining focus.
With the Atlantic 10 Championships still two and a half months away, the Colonials are fighting the fatigue inherent in the December stretch of the season. Head coach Brian Thomas said his main priorities are avoiding injury and helping student-athletes balance academics ahead of finals season.
“Probably the biggest thing at this time of year is trying to keep everyone in the water and keep it healthy and keep moving forward in a positive way,” Thomas said. “Illness plays a big role this time typically, especially as academics start to add up.”
Thirteen meets on the women’s side and eight on the men’s side comprise both programs’ fall schedules, which began Oct. 4. Thomas added that the month-long waiting period to get back in the pool for a meet is always “interesting” because swimmers are trying to bounce back from the holiday breaks and final exams.
“We’re creatures of habit in our sport and interruptions, those things gives coaches some anxiety,” Thomas said. “But I know the swimmers are usually ready for it, so it’s built in and that’s good.”
After losing a core group of seniors last season, the men’s program entered this season knowing it had holes to fill.
“On the men’s side, we either graduated or are redshirting 307 points from the A-10 meet last year, whereas our closest competitor only graduated 59.” Thomas said.
Sophomore swimmer Dylan Arzoni said the absence from the 2018-19 senior class was felt at the beginning of the season, but the team has proven their ability to perform at a high level as the season progressed.
“They were all quite prominent figures on the team, so the absence of the six or seven who left over the summer was definitely a difference coming back,” Arzoni said. “But the way we’ve progressed in the few months we’ve had this season is very promising.”
In the team’s six dual meets, the squad claimed three victories over Johns Hopkins, Boston College and Howard Oct. 18, Oct. 19 and Nov. 9, respectively. The team dropped its meets against Navy and Towson Oct. 18 and Virginia Tech Oct. 26.
Despite the loss of seven seniors, several swimmers have stood out in the water this season, including senior Moritz Fath. Fath, who was named the Most Outstanding Performer during last season’s A-10 Championship, boasted a top-four finish in the 1,650 meter freestyle during the Queens University Fall Frenzy Nov. 22 to 24.
Senior Andrew Cho has also stood out as a top performer this year. Cho posted his season-best time in the 100 meter backstroke and was runner-up in the 200 meter backstroke at the late November competition. Both of his backstroke finishes were best in the A-10 this season, and Cho was named A-10 Co-Performer of the Week.
The divers showcased some of their best performances at the NC State/GAC Invite in Greensboro Nov. 21 to 23. Junior diver Peter Nachtwey highlighted the competition with a season-best finish on the three meter board.
“We had some very good performances down in Charlotte for a new season meet which we didn’t rest for, we didn’t really make many adjustments for,” Thomas said. “So I was happy to see some positive performances there.”
On the women’s side, junior swimmer Andrea Ho pieced together career-best performances this season. During the Fall Frenzy, Ho recorded her personal best times in two events and qualified for the A-10 finals.
Sophomore swimmer Grace Olivardia said Ho’s ability to propel herself underwater during her signature backstroke event is her secret weapon in competition.
“Andy is super, super talented. She’s probably one of the hardest workers in the pool, she is really good at underwater – she’s unreal at that,” Olivardia said. “So it was really cool to see her go times that she hasn’t gone in two years at our mid-season meet.”
The squad has won four of its seven dual meets this season, topping Johns Hopkins and Miami Oct. 18, Boston College Oct. 19 and Howard Nov. 9. The team fell to Navy and Towson Oct. 18 and Virginia Tech Oct. 26.
Olivardia said practices are scheduled to work around the team’s conflicting schedules and accommodate classes, but the rigor of final exams can throw a wrench in team workout regimens.
“It’s definitely hard especially when you get into finals because everybody has different schedules and is trying to make different classes,” Olivardia said. “But we just try and do workouts that work for everyone, so whether it’s in the morning or something like that, we try and stick together.”
The men’s program wraps its fall schedule Dec. 4 to 7 at the USA Swimming Toyota Winter Nationals, and the women’s squad caps its fall schedule at 10 a.m. Dec. 7 against Richmond.