For the second straight season, men’s and women’s swimming and diving are Atlantic 10 Champions, continuing a dynasty of regional dominance for both programs.
The championship crown earlier this month marked the seventh conference title in the past eight seasons for the men’s team. Three of the titles were earned in the last four years under Head Coach Brian Thomas, who was named men’s coach of the year at the meet. For the women’s team, this marks their second-consecutive title for the first time in program history after winning their first conference title in the 2019-20 season.
The men’s team tallied 783 points, which was 275.5 points higher than the second-place team George Mason. The women’s team led the championship with 794.5 points, 315 points more than the second-place team – breaking 14 school records across 19 events.
The A-10 swimming and diving championships took place in Geneva, Ohio over the course of four days where each program would compete in 40 events against Davidson College, University of Massachusetts Amherst and George Mason, Fordham, St. Bonaventure, La Salle and Saint Louis universities.
“So just pretty good performances all around there, and especially with our underclassmen stepping up into new roles and things like that,” Thomas said. “But pretty impressed with just the improvement side on the women, it’s a little uncommon to have that many athletes improving to that degree and maybe dominating some events as we did it.”
Thomas said recruiting has helped both programs extend their conference dominance due to the “slew of talent” that has allowed the team to continue improving to increase their point and event victories. He said the coaching staff tries to keep a positive environment for the team before big meets like the A-10 Championship.
“From a recruiting standpoint, we’ve been able to bring in athletes that challenge the top athletes that we already have within the team, and they come in already in a position where they’re scoring points at the Atlantic 10 Championship and things like that,” Thomas said. “So that’s really helped with that, probably, and I think I’m proud of, with our team is that it also hasn’t discouraged our upperclassmen, they’ve risen to that challenge, which can be a challenging thing.”
Here is a recap of the championship:
The GW men earned 26 medals with 12 golds and set three A-10 records, one A-10 meet record and 21 program records. GW had 18 student-athletes score double-digit points against the other team’s single-digit points. Graduate student Marek Osina scored the most points for the Colonials, holding an impressive performance with two gold medals and three podium finishes at the meet.
Osina’s impressive performance at the championship started with a record-breaking first-place win in the freestyle relay alongside junior Karol Mlynarczyk, freshman Preston Lin, redshirt junior Djurdje Matic and freshman Ganesh Sivaramakrishnan, beating the A-10 record in the 200-yard freestyle medley relay for a gold medal with 1:25.69. He also won first place in the 200-yard individual medley, taking the gold in 1:44.91, before a second-place finish in the 500-yard freestyle with 3:46.55.
“Marek is the kind of guy who was always capable of swimming just about everything at a high level within our conference,” Thomas said. “And that’s pretty rare to have a swimmer that can contribute across the board in every discipline, every distance, so it didn’t necessarily surprise me the success that he had.”
The men’s team kicked off the first day of the championship with an early lead of 80 points with a gold medal in the night-one relays and a new A-10 record for the men’s 200-yard medley relay. Mlynarczyk, Lin, Matic and Sivaramakrishnan beat the A-10 record in the 200-yard medley relay, taking the gold and setting a new record with 1:25.69 in the event.
Matic set the A-10 record, taking first place in the 100-yard butterfly in a lightning-fast 45.76 seconds with Matic finishing just .24 seconds ahead with a silver medal. Whelan recorded a 46.79 time, taking the bronze medal.
On the diving side, senior Spencer Bystrom came out with a strong second-place finish after totaling 302.80 points, a personal best.
Sophomore Philip Moldovanu took third place in the men’s 500-yard freestyle with a 4:23.41 time, and the men finished in all top-three spots in the 400-yard IM with Connor Rodgers winning the gold medal in 3:46.25 and breaking the A-10 record. Osina followed in second place with a 3:46.55 time, and Ringenbach finished in third with 3:47.30.
Thomas said the biggest takeaway from the men’s championship run is the growing performance and recruitment improvement of other teams in the conference. He said in past years, the men’s team has dominated the A-10 Championships by a bigger differential and is seeing a more steady improvement from other teams.
“Things have tightened up, and we can’t just lean on the advantages we’ve had in the past,” Thomas said. “We have to address some things and make sure that we’re solidifying the diving in, which we have three new athletes coming in next year, and just making sure that we’re filling some of the holes that we see in terms of being the best that we can be.”
The women’s program locked down 27 spots on the podium, winning 12 gold medals, setting an A-10 Championship meet record and three overall A-10 records throughout the meet to win the second consecutive conference crown.
The Colonials kicked off the first day by breaking the A-10 record for the women’s 200-yard medley relay in the first race and showing no signs of stopping with 17 student-athletes scoring in double digits. Freshman Phoebe Wright won the meet’s Most Outstanding Rookie Performer award after receiving a gold medal in the 200-yard freestyle, bronze medals in the 500-yard freestyle and 200-yard backstroke and posting a 53-point performance.
“She also just has something like the physical gifts, she’s tall, she’s long, she’s got good, good physical skills that way,” Thomas said. “She’s also, she has a great aptitude for change, when I when I had her make a change with her swimming, whether it’s a technical change or just an approach thing, she was able to do it instantly. And not every swimmer can do that by any means.”
Freshman Ava Topolewski kicked off the final night by breaking the A-10 1650-yard freestyle record with 16:27.78. Her time shattered GW’s record for the event, which alumni Bambi Bowman set in 1995. In the 200-yard event, Wright notched another GW record with 1:56.04 in the final event, winning a bronze medal.
Junior Marlee Rickert won the gold medal in the 100-yard freestyle with a 49.71 time. Sophomore Julia Knox set GW’s program record in the 200-yard breaststroke while taking bronze in 2:12.39. The performance was the fourth program record she set at the meet.
Sophomore Moriah Freitas added a second individual medal in 1:59.36 in the 200-yard butterfly final.
The Colonials are now in the process of qualifying for the NCAA Championships, which will take place March 2 for divers and March 22 for swimmers.
This article appeared in the February 27, 2023 issue of the Hatchet.