Men’s and women’s swimming and diving rank first, fourth at A-10 Championships

Despite facing a postponed schedule in the fall, men’s and women’s swimming and diving cruised into the postseason at the Atlantic 10 Championships.

The men’s squad collected 828.5 points over four days to capture their fourth A-10 title in five years while the women’s team picked up a fourth-place finish with 438 points. The men’s team set four conference records and seven program records throughout the tournament.

“I guess there was more adversity than a normal year, but what the beauty of this year was that it kind of showed us that we can have this really, really awful situation and that can affect everyone but we can also end up taking advantage of being strong and versatile and just having a lot of grit and doing something beautiful at the end of it,” senior Peter Nachtwey said.

Despite suffering a disqualification in the opening medley relay, freshman Karol Mlynarczyk bounced back to win six gold medals and the Most Outstanding Performer and the Most Outstanding Rookie Performer awards.

He set a program record in the 100 free with a time of 43.66 seconds and won his third individual gold in the 200 back relay.

“I was super proud of him,” Nachtwey said. “My roommates, who are not on the team, were watching all the sessions. And when I came back they were like ‘Who’s this Karol kid? Like, he’s amazing.’ So, yeah, he is dominant. He has a great attitude and works really hard. I cannot wait to see how he does in a couple years.”

Sophomore Tyler Kawakami, junior Marek Osina and graduate student Emils Pone notched individual wins. Kawakami finished the 100 free with a time of 44.18 seconds to earn his second gold of the meet and end the weekend with five gold medals.

Osina nabbed gold in the 200 breast with a time of 1:56.93, nearly breaking the conference record in the process of getting his third medal. He concluded the weekend with five gold medals as well.

Despite never competing in the event, Pone etched a new program record into the books with the 200 fly in the preliminaries and then broke the conference mark with a time of 1:45.19. As a veteran of the program, Pone played a key leadership role, providing a wealth of experience to the younger members of the team.

“I have come a long way since freshman year, and some people will probably think, ‘You’ve only won, you don’t know how it is to lose,’” Pone said. “But I think the most important aspect that I would tell everyone before the big meets is just being invested in your teammates and that will allow you to do your part and your job.”

The Latvia native has taken part in all four of the men’s team’s recent championship wins, something head coach Brian Thomas said was not a coincidence. After amassing six medals last weekend, Pone now has 15 total in his storied career.

“He is as consistent and professional as any athlete I’ve been around and I’ve coached a U.S. Olympian,” Thomas said. “The way that he is driven, I’ve never seen. He’s left a legacy here that will not be forgotten. As soon as he is eligible, he is in the GW Athletics Hall of Fame if there’s anything I can do about it.”

On the women’s side, junior swimmer Erin McCarthy won the gold in the 1,650 meter free relay in a come from behind victory Saturday, trimming 11 seconds off her personal best. She also won bronze in the 500 free relay, her first career medal, and qualified for the final where she placed seventh.

“That’s always been my move, even when I was in high school,” McCarthy said. “I like to chase people down. But I think in the mile, it’s really about trusting your training. And I saw those girls, that really took it out fast. But I knew that I could be consistent for the whole entire time.”

Thomas said McCarthy’s success last weekend didn’t surprise him. He said McCarthy took the last year as an opportunity to elevate her swimming to the next level and transform her mindset.

“When she came back in August, it was like a different person just in terms of what she was accomplishing and workout and just her approach to it,” Thomas said. “You could see that her swimming had become a little bit more important to her. And that takes a ton of maturity.”

Freshman Marlee Rickert won silver in the 100 meter back relay while sophomore diver Jamie Doak bounced back after suffering an ACL injury in the 2019 season to take the bronze in the three-meter dive.

“It was just a lot of time to get back to where I was,” Doak said. “With the challenge of COVID and having to figure out the practice schedule, being able to practice, getting quarantined, it was a little more of a struggle. But it was really fun to see it all pay off in the end and see that I could come back even stronger than I was before.”

Thomas said he was “thrilled” with how the team handled the adversity they faced this year with the pandemic restrictions and the postponement of the fall schedule. But Thomas said fourth is ultimately “not acceptable.” He expects the women’s team to come back stronger to get another shot at the A-10 title winner Richmond.

“They all know that,” Thomas said. “So we sat on the bench, we watched the award ceremony, we watched Richmond jump in the pool, and basically made the decision, you know, we’re gonna use the next 10 months or so, to ensure that we’re part of the conversation here in 2022 when we do it again.”

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