Women’s programs break ground with record number of championship wins

Media Credit: File Photo by Sydney Walsh | Assistant Photo Editor

Women's swimming and diving won their second A-10 title in three years in February.

Women’s sports recorded their highest number of championship-winning seasons this year with three league championships and subsequent appearances in NCAA tournaments.

After softball won their first ever Atlantic 10 Championship in spring 2021, cross country followed up with a first league championship in fall 2021. Swimming and diving continued the momentum with their second A-10 title in three years before gymnastics won the East Atlantic Gymnastics League championship a month later.

“I would say like freshmen to seniors, everybody just has like a really strong work ethic of like wanting to be there and wanting to work hard,” senior swimmer Grace Olivardia said. “That’s one of the main really great aspects of our team, men’s and women’s. We just want to work hard.”

This surge in GW championship success comes 50 years after the signing of the Title IX law that opened up more equitable athletic opportunities to female college athletes.

Cross country secured the team A-10 Championship in October after finishing 25 points ahead of second place Dayton. The team was led by graduate students Margaret Coogan, Peri Pavicic and Kathryn Nohilly who finished in the top 10.

All three runners were named to the A-10 All-Conference Team along with freshman Olivia Syftestad, who was named to the A-10 All-Rookie Team. The team finished in sixth place at the Mid-Atlantic regional, their second straight in the top 10.

The program hit the ground running in the indoor track season as Nohilly broke the program record in the 1000m and the mile while Wilkinson broke records in both the 400m and 800m. Nohilly and graduate student Brittany Wilkinson teamed up with Coogan and graduate student Julia Dempsey to break the program record in the 4000m distance medley relay.

In their final race for the indoor season, Wilkinson, Nohilly, Dempsey and sophomore Kirsten Long shattered the program record in the 4×800 relay.

Through three meets of the outdoor track season, the team has built off their success last spring that saw Coogan and Nohilly as the first GW female teammates to compete at the NCAA East Preliminary. Nohilly broke the school record from last spring in the opening 1500m, and Coogan, Dempsey, Long and Syftestad set a GW record in the 4x1500m relay.

In February, Swimming and Diving captured the second A-10 Championship in program history and their second in three years. The team finished 192.5 points from second place Duquesne and picked up 17 medals across the four-day competition.

“We knew we were going to be good, and they were just on a mission to begin with,” Head Coach Brian Thomas said. “It was almost the kind of thing where we didn’t have to mention it. Everybody kind of knew fourth place doesn’t cut it for us at GW.”

The team picked up six program records at the championships. Freshman Julia Knox kicked things off, setting the program record in the 200 yard individual medley on the second day of competition.

“I just knew that we had built a team that’s three or four people deep at each event, and that’s how you win our conference on the women’s side,” Thomas said. “You can’t just have one or two studs.”

Knox followed the next day with another program record in the 400 yard individual medley before sophomore Marlee Rickert broke the 100 yard backstroke record. Later that night, Knox and Rickert joined up with freshmen Ava DeAngelis and Barbara Schaal to break the 400 yard medley relay record.

“Friday morning was something I had never seen before,” Thomas said. “The way they performed was just like it was out of bounds.”

On the final day of the meet, junior Stine Omdahl Petersen broke the previous record she’d set in 2020 in the 200 yard breaststroke and Schaal broke the 200 yard backstroke. Senior Erin McCarthy got both of the teams’ golds at the championships, finishing first in the 500 yard and 1,650 freestyle races.

Freshman diver Dara Reyblat and her junior counterparts Jamie Doak and Caitlin Inall contributed 73 points total. Doak’s performance was good enough to qualify her for the NCAA Zone A Championships.

“I said, ‘If you do what we’ve trained you to do, you’re going to like the result,’ and they did,” Thomas said.

In March, gymnastics won the EAGL Championship in their home gym for their third EAGL Championship and eighth league championship in school history. The team finished with a score of 196.325, beating out second place Towson.

The Colonials registered a 48.900 on beam, 49.275 on floor and 49.075 on vault and bars.

Graduate student Deja Chambliss led the way, earning the event titles on floor and vault, scoring 9.950 and 9.875, respectively. Chambliss also set a second-place finish in the all-around with a 39.475 score leading her to be named EAGL Gymnast of the Year.

Chambliss and sophomore Kendall Whitman both qualified for the NCAA Regionals, with Chambliss competing in the all-around and Whitman on floor. Chambliss earned a 39.375, finishing eighth in the competition while Whitman got a 9.750 mark in her debut.

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