Image Courtesy of Catholic University
By Katie Van Lew
In the wake of a global pandemic, the future of college athletics became a nationwide concern for athletes everywhere; especially for senior collegiate athletes, who anticipated one, last season of participating in the sport that they love, and have spent nearly a decade dedicating their time to.
Amidst the uncertainty surrounding college athletics imposed by COVID-19, the Catholic University Athletics Department has done everything in their power to ensure a safe and successful season for athletes. On February 26th and 27th, the Catholic University Men’s and Women’s team competed in the virtual Landmark Conference championship meet.
Because of COVID-19 restrictions and regulations, Catholic University, Drew University, Juniata College, and the University of Scranton participated in a virtual championship meet, with each team vying for the title of “Landmark Conference Champion” from their respective pools.
Catholic University’s Men’s and Women’s Swimming and Diving team made history last year with Coaches Paul Waas and Emily Rollo when both teams swept their fierce competitors and brought home the championship title to Washington, D.C.
Led by new head coach, Tyler Ziegler, and assistant coach, Caitlin Foley, the swimmers trudged forward into an environment this year that strays from their typical tradition of competing at the Germantown, Maryland Aquatic Center over the course of four days, Catholic’s swim team did not disappoint nor hold back.
The 200 yard medley relay marked the first time competitors have heard the much-dreaded, yet sweet sound of the starting buzzer in a year.
During the season, duel meets were out of the question, as to maneuver around the limitations of the pandemic. Despite not competing for a year, the swimmers began the meet with a powerful punch, showing their competitors that even with a shortened season full of obstacles, they were not about to give up their championship title without a fight.
During day one, the Cardinals delivered nothing less than impressive and well-calculated swims.
In the first individual race, juniors Kelly Smith (5:27.93), Kate VonHeerigen (5:32.87), and Colleen McDonald (5:33.37) swept the race.
The men’s team showed their depth and undeniable talent in the 200 IM, with senior Gregory McCarthy (1:56.77), freshman Nathan Ober (2:00.13 ), and junior Daniel Taylor (2:00.16) leading the pack of talented teammates.
The Cardinals continued to barrel through fast swims, with the individual events ending with the 50 yard freestyle. junior Angie Castano (24.83), senior Caroline Beal (24.89), and sophomore Emma Gould (25.46) raced hard, and put up exceptional times. Following them, the men’s sprinters, junior Jeffrey-Schriefer Flores (21.52), senior Matthew Mahon (21.78), and freshman Harry Montes (22.06), remained neck and neck in the event, fighting until the very end. Even though it was teammates and not competitors from different schools competing against each other, it was all the more interesting to watch the uplifting and motivating energy the teammates exuded.
Day two of the Landmark Conferences proved even more fruitful for the swimmers, as they fought to protect their title and continue their fearless legacy.
Arguably one of the most gruesome events, the 400 IM truly exhibited the ardor and talents of Catholic University swimmers. Junior Cagney Boyle (4:51.83), sophomore Claire Laux (5:59.36), and senior Molly Donnelan (4:59.61) gave it their all, powering through the water to the wall. For the men’s, senior Gregory McCarthy (4:07.72) led the 400 IM with Sophomore Ellis Prescott (4:24.48), and senior James Verby (4:34.25).
Day two and three of the meet, which took place on Saturday, showcased many close swims.
During the men’s 100 yard butterfly and 200 yard butterfly, senior Matthew Meade and junior Joe Keller delivered a thrilling performance as the teammates were neck and neck in both races. Their friendly competition proved successful, as both pushed each other to succeed and procure fast times.
Continuing with close finishes, the men’s 100 yard backstroke proved to be another successful and exciting swim for freshman Jack Huffner (53.23), junior Jeffrey Schreifer-Flores (53.39), and junior Joshua Roberts (55.14) as they fought for first place.
During the 200 yard breaststroke, senior Christopher Grunbok (2:05.76) worked to defend his title, with senior Kyle Kreuscher (2:16.21) and junior Alex Farley (2:17.71) finishing within a second of each other.
Seniors Grace Smith (2:21.36) and Kayla Ruffo (2:26.61), and sophomore Megan Lowell (2:27.75) swam impressive races, showing their perseverance through their successful swims in the women’s 200 yard butterfly.
“This past weekend, we had the swimming portion of our virtual Landmark Championship meet,” said new Catholic University Swimming head coach, Tyler Ziegler. “Both our women and men’s teams swam very well. While this year presented us with unique challenges, our team rose to the occasion. Our on-deck atmosphere was electric. The team supported each other and we gave our best in the pool. With the diving portion of our meet taking place this weekend, both our women and men are in excellent positions to defend our Landmark Conference titles. We had a fantastic season and I am extremely proud of what our team has accomplished this year.”
Currently, Catholic University men’s and women’s swimming teams are leading the Landmark Championship with the men earning 680 points, and the women earning 535 points. Although the championship title will not be declared until the diving team competes this upcoming weekend, the swimmers have proven yet again that with dedication, hard work, and resilience, they are more than capable of defending their title as champions.