The men’s swimming and diving team worked through injuries and setbacks over the course of its season, finishing 11-5 and winning seven of its final nine contests.
Head Coach Kevin Markwardt, who completed his 23rd season as head coach of the swimming and diving program, said that he was pleased with his squad’s performance this year.
“Dual meet wise, I think we did almost as well as we could’ve done,” Markwardt said. “I don’t have any real regrets. The guys stepped up in the times when we were in a close meet and we had a chance to win, they really stepped up and did the job. I’m very proud of that record.”
The 2009-10 campaign reached its pinnacle for the Bombers when they finished in third-place at the Upper New York State Collegiate State Association meet, narrowly edging Empire 8 rival Alfred University by half of a point. The Blue and Gold finished among the top five teams for the tenth consecutive year.
“To beat Alfred, who has been the defending champ for the past couple years, was really gratifying,” Markwardt said. “If he hadn’t have done that, to be honest with you, the season would have been significantly different. To me, it would have been a bummer.”
The Bombers received significant contributions from a pair of sophomores, Jeff Rapp and Antoine Connors, who consistently set the tone for the Blue and Gold all season. Rapp broke two school records at the meet, while finishing fourth in the 100-yard backstroke and third in the 200-yard individual medley. Connors defended his state title in the 50-yard freestyle.
“One of our team goals is going into every meet having the best swims that we can have,” assistant coach Mike Ariel said.
As a team, the Bombers broke four schools records, posted 16 provisional NCAA qualifying times and had nine players receive All-Empire 8 honors.
Despite the solid showing at States, Connors said that there is still work to be done in the coming years.
“There’s always room for improvement,” said Connors. “You can never hit the top. We’re losing a couple seniors but the class we have left behind, we’re so mentally ready, we’re so mentally prepared. We’re feeling strong for next year.”
Seniors, Matt Carolan, Gary Westerhoff and diver Andrew Longcore, will graduate in May ending their careers as Ithaca Bombers. Coach Markwardt said that he is sad to see them go but is grateful for their dedication and contributions.
“Matt is kind of a quiet guy that plugs along,” said Markwardt. “He works really hard, he does his job. I’m going to miss him because as a coach you like a guy that works really hard. Gary stepped up as a leader [and] as a captain. That’s tough to do when you’re not one of the better guys on the team. [Andrew] pulled the guys together and let them know what were the goals, what they were working for. Andrew was key in bridging that gap [between the swimmers and divers].”
Looking forward, the Bombers will rely on their solid base of underclassmen that showed signs of brilliance during the season. Freshmen Jake Robbins and Chris Caldwell were instrumental to the success of the freestyle relay teams. Freshman diver Martin Brown performed well in his first season, adding depth to an improving diving squad.
“The Ithaca Bombers are never satisfied with anything but first. We were happy with third place, but there’s two more spots we can move up,” Connors said. “Within in the team, if we swim individually for the team, each of us has more to improve.”