The Women’s Swimming team took second place in their season-opening meet this weekend at Union College in Schenectady, New York. Winning seven of nine events overall, the Hawks totaled 106 points from the relays and placed before competitors Montclair State University and Mount Saint Mary College.
The 400 medley relay team of fourth-year Samantha Granan and third-years Casey O’Connor, Maggie Heaton and Cassidy Griger kicked off the meet with a first place title, clocking in at 4:10.093. Later in the event, the relay team of Heaton, first-year Molly McCulloch and third-year Ella Graffin took first place in the 300 butterfly relay with a time of 3:09.01. Other Hawk victories at the meet included wins of the 300 breaststroke relay, 200, 400 and 500 yard freestyles, 600 yard medley/200 individual medley relay.
The two events that ultimately left the Hawks behind in points was their second-place finish in the 300 meter relay and a disqualification due to a flinch start in the 200 medley relay. Host Union College bested the Hawks by six points due to their participation in the diving section of the event with an overall 112 points.
Regardless of the points that the Hawks took away from this event, Head Coach Scott Whitbeck said that he is very pleased with where the team has started.
“We would’ve won eight of the nine events if we hadn’t been disqualified in one relay,” he said. “[This is] the deepest team we’ve ever had in terms of talent – we have so many swimmers that can step up in different spots so it was nice that we were able to touch first in a lot of the events.”
By starting out the season strong at the Union Relays, McCulloch said the team is in high spirits.
“I felt the team’s performance was great,” she said. “We won almost all of the relays and most of us had great times and had a successful meet. Everyone had a great attitude going into the meet and that helped us perform well.”
In a team of 26 women, the Hawks have seven new first-years on the roster this season. Getting adjusted to a collegiate swim program is challenging, Whitbeck said, but he sees the newcomers as great additions to the team.
“I really like this mix of veterans and youth that we have,” he said. “There’s some juniors and seniors that are the core of our team who we count on to anchor relays and shoot after nationals, and we have some impressive young talent that I really think is getting ready to step up. I really think the group is meshing well together, we’re working hard and have a good attitude.”
The Hawk’s next event is in two weeks, where they will travel to New York University (NYU) for a two-day invitational. The team will be facing “challenging opponents,” such as their host and Stevens Institute of Technology, Whitbeck said.
“The meet we have in two weeks is against some of the nation’s best,” he said. “We’re early in the season so we still have a lot of general development to work on, trying to get in better shape, trying to practice racing faster – and I think we need to address some events to find some distance swimmers and some backstrokers to help fill some holes that are gonna help our team.”
This is the first time that the Hawks will be swimming against NYU in seven years. In past seasons, they’ve come close to defeating Stevens Institute, but are hoping to perform as close to their caliber of competition this time, Griger said.
“This next meet will be a two-day invitational at NYU where we can expect a lot of fast competition,” Griger said. “We have two weeks of hard training to continue to build strength and endurance with a couple days of recovery to recharge for the meet. This invitational is a good assessment of where we are at this point in the season and I expect there will be a lot of fast swimming from the team.”
After last season’s third place finish overall, Whitbeck said the team is fired up to go further and build off of that record. This team has a national focus, he said, and there are swimmers on the team who have an expectation to reach the NCAA Div. III competition in March.
“I think they’re hungry for more,” he said. “We left last season thinking that we had some room to grow and and I’d like to move up. I’m hoping that we can compete with the very best in the conference [and] we can step up and swim better as a whole.”