The record books might still be in the process of being rewritten after the Catholic University of America swimming and diving team’s historic performance at this year’s Landmark Conference Championship meet.
The weekend of February 16th-18th saw the men’s team complete an undefeated season and win the Landmark Conference by a margin of more than 300 points, and the women’s side complete its most successful campaign since joining the conference in 2007, finishing in 2nd. Between the two teams, the Cardinals claimed Swimmer of the Year, Co-Diver of the Year, Coach of the Year, 27 All-Conference awards, and more than a dozen school and conference meet records in a dominant performance.
Although reading the list of new records and accolades can be extensive to the point of fatigue, head coach Paul Waas pointed out one stat of which he was particularly proud. The men’s 926.5 points and women’s 704 added up for the most combined points in Landmark history, for any school. Regardless of the stats, Catholic’s 2017-2018 season will be remembered as one of the most successful campaigns in program and Landmark Conference history.
“All year long we train together, travel together, and support each other in and out of the pool,” Waas said. “We really carry ourselves as one combined team, and this reflected the strength of our entire roster, top to bottom.”
What is also exciting for the program is the amount of rookie contributions that came from a number of already-decorated freshman standouts. Matthew Mahon set three school records, taking gold in the 50-freestyle (21.06), 100-freestyle (45.85) and the 200-freestyle (1:42.50) during the weekend. James Verby won the 500-freestyle (4:44.13) and the 1650-freestyle (16:34.49), while David Lindros and Chris Grunbok took second in the 100-backstroke and 200-breaststroke, respectively. Mahon also teamed up with junior Sam Hicks and sophomores Oliver Nguyen and Kevin Jay to set a school record 400-freestyle relay (3:08.10) for gold. These performances earned each of them All-Landmark honors.
And last, but certainly not least, comes freshman Greg McCarthy. The Silver Spring, Maryland native capped his first collegiate season with a phenomenal performance that earned him both Rookie of the Year and Swimmer of the Year honors in the Landmark Conference. He set school records and took gold in the 400-individual medley, 200-breaststroke, 200-individual medley, and the 400-medley and 800-freestyle relays. Quite simply, if McCarthy swam in the race, he won it, and broke a record in the process.
McCarthy’s week of euphoria took a break for only a few days until this past Wednesday when he was invited to compete in the 2018 NCAA Division III National Swimming & Diving Championships in Indianapolis on March 21st. His three NCAA qualifying times in the individual races made him the first male swimmer at Catholic to be invited to Nationals since Hall of Famer John Cooper qualified back in 1997.
“It feels amazing to be able to compete with the fastest D-III swimmers in the nation,” McCarthy said. “I’ve never swam at the national level and I’m just ready to represent CUA as best as I can.”
The victory made it back-to-back conference championships for the men’s team. For senior diver Joey Soraghan, who was named co-diver of the year after taking gold in the one-meter dive, it was the perfect finish to a historic run.
“Winning capped off four years of hard work for all the seniors and a hard fought season for all the guys on the team. Going undefeated was such a cool accomplishment because it showed that we kept the pressure on all season,” Soraghan said. “I was just happy to be a part of it all to see how far swimming and diving has come since I was a freshman.
The women’s swimming and diving team finished its season with a second place finish behind Susquehanna University, whose victory made it eight straight conference titles. The team’s 704 point total was its highest since it joined the Landmark Conference in 2007. As Waas noted, the team’s depth was the main factor behind the success.
Notable performances included freshman Caroline Beal’s school-record 200-backstroke (2:07.72) for bronze, junior Rachael Zarlinski’s and freshman Morgan James’ 100-freestyle swims that gave them second and third place finishes, respectively, and junior Pippa Rogers’ silver finish in the 200-butterfly. Freshman Molly Donnellan and juniors Val Sander and Emily Messina all contributed with fifth place finishes as well.
Messina said that there was a lot of optimism about this group even before the first meet began in October.
“Honestly we got excited even before the season started. We saw the talents our incoming freshman had and coming off a great previous season with lots of best times we knew we could push ourselves,” Messina said. “It’s a long road, but everyone could feel that conferences would be a special time and that kept us motivated during the season.”
Sophomore Emily Earley noted the collective support from both teams as one of the crucial aspects of the success.
“I have never been on a team that supports each other as much as both the men’s and women’s teams,” Earley said. “I can say with complete certainty that I would not have swam the way I did without the constant support and encouragement I received throughout the season.”
Waas, who received his second consecutive coach of the year honors after the meet, acknowledged the talent returning next season when asked about the future.
“It’s a testament to the example these seniors set in recruiting and the expectations we had for our younger swimmers,” Waas said. “Our goal every season is to be better than we ever have been before, and I expect that to be the case next season as well.”
McCarthy and his fellow class have high hopes that this is not the pinnacle.
“As for the future success of the class of 2021: more wins, more records and more championships,” McCarthy said.