Since the beginning of its season back in October, the men’s swimming and diving team looked at winning its second straight Upper New York State Collegiate Swimming Association and Empire 8 Conference title as not only a goal, but an expectation.
The Blue and Gold entered the four-day meet ranked third in the Empire 8 behind Stevens Institute of Technology and Hartwick College, a team that handed the Bombers their only dual-meet loss of the regular season. But the Bombers still believed they could come out on top.
Senior Jeff Rapp said the South Hill squad tried to shift its priorities going into the state and conference championships meet.
“We didn’t try and focus on all the dual-meets,” Rapp said. “Our focus was to work for states, unlike other schools who focus on dual-meets and see what happens at states.”
While other schools will cut back on workouts in midseason in order to do well at meets, the Blue and Gold ease into the end of the season and conserve their energy for the state championship. Head Coach Kevin Markwardt said this unorthodox training method resulted in faster finishing times at last week’s meet.
“Hartwick tapered and tried to get some national qualifying times, and Stevens does something similar at ECACs where they’ll taper midseason and swim fast times,” he said. “But we use the entire season to build up our volume and focus on one swim.”
Markwardt said the Bombers had more multi-event swimmers than their opponents at the state and conference meet.
“On other teams, when you get down to the 15th and 16th guys, they’re not scoring,” he said. “Every guy on our team scored points and our last guy scored 22 points — that’s how we won by 170 points.”
The South Hill squad was able to take an 85-point lead after the first day of the meet and keep their composure throughout, never trailing from the first day on.
Senior captain James Sica said he had to remind the team how it got to the championship meet to keep its goals in perspective.
“Me and [senior] Tyler [Kenton]really tried to stress remembering why we’re here and the process of the meet to keep everyone focused,” Sica said.
Strong efforts from the team’s freshman class helped the Bombers propel to victory. Freshman Clement Towner placed sixth in the 500-yard freestyle and helped the Blue and Gold place in the top five in two team relays. Towner said he felt more pressure to perform in the state meet, knowing he was being heavily relied on to succeed.
“We did fill in the gaps that the seniors were missing,” he said. “I was able to perform the distance events very well, which we didn’t have in the past.”
Though the season has come to an end for most members of the team, there are a few Bombers who have a chance to qualify for the NCAA Championships March 21-24 in Indianapolis. The 200- and 400-medley relay teams are ranked in the nation’s top 15. Senior captain Derek Rand, junior Martin Brown, and freshman Matthew Morrison will represent the Bomber divers at the national competition.
Sica said the seniors on the team couldn’t have asked for a better finish to their swimming careers at the college.
“It was definitely a great way to go out,” he said.