After nearly five decades without a conference title, women’s swimming and diving finally had its moment in the sun, clinching its first Atlantic 10 Championship in program history Saturday.
The Colonials have been inching ever closer to the title for years. After five consecutive seasons of improved finishes at the conference championships, the Colonials totaled 608 points across the four-day competition to claim the crown.
“It’s phenomenal just in that program, been around for 50 years, to have never won a conference championship is obviously historic and something that they should be proud of,” head coach Brian Thomas said. “More than that, and I know that the athletes feel the same way, we’re really proud to represent the alumni and represent all areas of swimming and diving at GW.”
GW had its strongest showing on the final night of the championship, taking medals in four separate events, one of which was an individual gold finish in the 1,650-yard freestyle by sophomore Andrea Moussier.
Moussier was not alone on the podium Saturday. Senior Gemma Atherly’s strong finish in the 200-yard backstroke led to her second silver medal of the competition. Senior Jackie Torrez also nabbed silver in the 200-yard butterfly, adding on to the 400-yard IM bronze medal she won Friday.
Freshman Stine Omdahl Petersen broke the program’s record in the 200-yard breaststroke with a time of 1:01.74 in the preliminaries and earned a bronze finish in the finals.
GW opened the championships strong, ending the first day of competition on Wednesday with a 12-point lead over Duquesne.
“Wednesday was awesome for us with the diving event first and foremost, and then moving on to the 200 medley relay, which our women won, first event of the meet, kind of opened our eyes to be like, ‘OK, maybe we could do something here,’” Thomas said.
The Colonials remained in the top spot throughout the championships, expanding their lead on Thursday thanks to solid performances in the 50-yard freestyle and 200-yard free relay. GW cleared the competition by a healthy 74 point margin. Fordham claimed the runner-up position with 534 points.
Thomas said a key element during the competition was the contributions of the diving team. Despite adding just two new divers in freshmen Jamie Doak and Caitlin Inall, the women’s squad was able to bring home significantly more points this season.
“The other component that was really big for us was diving,” Thomas said. “Last year, our divers scored 18 points, this year it was 50 something with the same personnel plus Caitlin. They were unbelievable.”
Both the men’s and women’s diving teams had a formidable showing throughout the week. Junior Peter Nachtwey was named Most Outstanding Diver for the second consecutive year after earning his second gold on the 3-meter diving board.
“He is a competitor,” head coach Wesley Mattice said. “He hasn’t scored well in practice and things like that, and when he gets into a competition, he thrives there. That’s his happy place, it seems like to me. He really loves that environment and thrives in it.”
Nachtwey’s success coupled with a strong showing from the entire diving team earned Mattice A-10 Diving Coach of the Year honors. He said it was nice “to feel respected” by his colleagues in the diving world.
While the women’s team lost last season’s A-10 championship by less than 20 points, the men’s squad suffered the same fate this year. The men’s squad missed out on its fourth consecutive conference championship by a mere 19.5 points.
Thomas said the team was unable to replace the seven members who graduated last season.
“If you look at the individual results, they’re phenomenal,” Thomas said. “We just lost too many points. We lost about 350 points from last year’s championship, so that’s hard to make up.”
For the second year in a row, senior Moritz Fath was named Most Outstanding Performer. The championship was the cherry on top of Fath’s collegiate career, winning three individual medals and contributing to four relay medals. He earned his first individual win of the 100-yard freestyle Saturday.
The Colonials ended day one of the competition tied with George Mason at the No. 1 spot. Medals in the 800-yard freestyle and the 200-yard medley bolstered GW’s efforts and 74 points on the day.
But George Mason pulled ahead on the second day with 262 points to GW’s 220.5. On Friday, the Colonials held fast at the number two position thanks to gold medal performances by Fath and freshman George Aspougalis.
On the final day, GW closed the gap and came within 20 points of George Mason but was unable to claim the lead. The Colonials nabbed seven individual medals on Saturday and ended the championship with 637.5 points.
“I was super proud of how they continued to put forth the effort, continued to fight, and it’s definitely a credit to our leadership,” Thomas said. “It’s a credit to our coaching staff, Katie and Logan, what they do to get our swimmers moving and motivated throughout a marathon of a season, but also for the student-athletes.”
Emily Maise and Will Margerum contributed reporting.