As they gear up for a new season, men’s and women’s swimming and diving are seeking to become A-10 champions once again.
The men’s team is seeking their fifth conference title in six seasons while the women’s team, who finished fourth at last year’s A-10 Championships, is looking to bounce back and win it all this year.
Senior Erin McCarthy, who won the gold in the 1,650 meter free relay in a come-from-behind victory during last year’s tournament, said the “ultimate” motivation of both teams is to win the A-10 Championship.
“That’s what we’re aiming for, but in order to do that I think we need to foster a lot of team togetherness,” McCarthy said.
The men’s team, after becoming A-10 champions last year and having won A-10 titles four out of the past five years, are setting their sights on another consecutive title victory. Junior Tyler Kawakami, who earned five gold medals at last season’s A-10 Championship, said the team is also looking to shine on the national stage.
“This year, we’re looking to increase our national ranking, which was previously not really on our radar,” Kawakami said.
The Colonials will have the help of an explosive new freshmen class, which Kawakami said “seem like they’ve been part of the team for years.”
Head coach Brian Thomas said he loved the team’s enthusiasm, and the fall slate brings a “sense of renewal” as they get ahead of the conference competitions in the spring.
“We try to set them up for the long haul and prepare them well, knowing that four years, a long time and especially in our sport, it’s consistency that matters most,” he said.
GW will also have the help of new staff members hired over the summer. Thomas said the arrival of assistant coaches Temarie Tomley and Mike Sullivan as well as head diving coach Christopher Lane will bring valuable experience to the table and a “fresh set of eyes” to help the athletes take the next step forward.
After months of preparation, the squads finally had the chance to show off their talents in their first meet against Virginia Tech this past Saturday. It was the first time the team had competed in the Smith Center in almost two years. Thomas said he would use the showcase to identify places of weakness in their skillset and determine if the team can keep up with the top teams in the country.
Both the men’s and women’s squads succumbed in their first meet against the Cavaliers. The men lost 190–102, while the women lost 178–111 by the day’s end. Despite the loss, both the players and coaches remained optimistic after the meet.
“I think we had a lot of victories here,” junior Becca Brown said. “Even if we didn’t win an event, we’ve had a lot of good things here, and I think just taking that with us next week and getting back in the water practicing and working hard for this next week and I think we’re going to see some great results.”
Junior Jamie Doak placed third and hit an NCAA zone qualifying time on the 1-meter dive, beating her previous career high by nearly 16 points and nearly capturing a program record. Thomas said Doak’s diving performance was phenomenal and accomplishing a NCAA zone qualifying time was a “very rare” feat.
Sophomore Karol Mlynarczyk, last season’s A-10 Most Outstanding Performer, finished second in both the 100 backstroke and the 200 backstroke.
Thomas said it was “exciting” to compete back in the Smith Center in front of an enthusiastic crowd. Team members said it was an “incredible feeling” to swim and cheer on teammates, and the team performed better because of the high energy of the crowd as well as their own.
As the Colonials look to bounce back in next week’s meet, Kawakami said a lighter practice schedule will help the team, giving their bodies a chance to recover from the first four weeks of grueling training.
Brown said the Colonials will also be boosted by a close-knit culture despite the influx of new staff members and teammates.
“We didn’t blink an eye – we just got right back into it, and we have to do something great,” Brown said. “The people here are amazing, and we were pushing each other so it’s just been great to be back.”
The Colonials will look to capture their first win of the budding season on the road against Old Dominion Friday at 3 p.m.