Young Lions turn heads at Bucknell Invitational

After their latest showings against Division I and II schools, the men’s and women’s swimming teams may be feeling like big fish in a small pond. Each team participated in the Bucknell University Invitational, a two-day event which began on Nov. 22 and pitted the Division III Lions against four Division I foes in the men’s meet, and five opponents in the women’s.

“We turned a lot of heads,” head coach Brian Bishop said, regarding the men’s teams’ fourth-place finish. The Lions finished the tournament with an overall score of 599 to overtake Towson University, but were not able to overcome host Bucknell, Binghamton or LaSalle Universities.

In the men’s meet, the top performance for the Lions was rookie Mike Vernoia who set two new College records on the night. Vernoia set new standards as he won the 200-yard and 500-yard freestyle events, finishing in 1:40.68 and 4:32.40, respectively.

“I am really trying to work on my under-waters coming off my flip turns without taking a breath,” Vernoia said. “For this weekend, our invitational, we are going to be very sore and tired from a long week of practicing, but I have a lot of confidence that we’ll still swim fast.”

The College also took first in the 400-yard freestyle relay with a time of 3:06.98. Contributors to the winning time were freshman Ryan Clark, Vernoia, senior Thomas Nawrot and sophomore Shawn Kircher. Junior Myles O’Connor also took first in the 100- and 200-yard breaststroke, finishing the 100-yard in 56.68 and the 200 in 2:05.28. In women’s action, the College was not able to overtake its adversaries as they finished sixth in the meet. Besides gaining valuable experience for more difficult future meets, the Lions had a bright light in freshman Leah Varvaro. The rookie swimmer tied the school record for the 100 backstroke (1:00.01), finishing seventh in the event.

Also with an impressive performance for the Lions was freshman Traci Hofer who finished third in the 50 freestyle and posted a NCAA Division III provisional time of 24.09.

“Against Bloomsburg, I thought we did great. We came together as a team and performed well,” Hofer said.

Earlier in the week, both squads took on Division II Bloomsburg University and sent the Huskies scurrying with their tails between their legs. On Friday, Nov. 21, the men’s team defeated Bloomsburg 121.5-82.5 improving their record to 6-0, while the women’s team also took home a victory, besting their opponents 112-93.

In men’s action, the Lions opened the meet with a win in the 400-yard medley relay as senior tri-captains Mike Heaney and Ted Yoa as well as sophomore Aaron Moskovich and freshman Jesse Taylor posted a time of 3:40.79 for the early victory.

In individual events, sophomore Tom Medvecky took first in the 200-yard freestyle (1:46.02), Nawrot came in first in the 50 freestyle (22.11) and freshman Ryan Clark added a win in the 200-yard individual medley (1:59.82). To continue the Lions’ winning trend, Vernoia won the 200-yard butterfly in 2:00.90 and junior Eric Rohrs was victorious in the 100-yard breaststroke with a time of 1:02.60.

The women’s team also performed at an impressive level to defeat an opponent that typically comes down to the final relay event, according to women’s head coach Jennifer Harnett. The women’s team improved their record to 6-1 on this day as Hofer added to her remarkable weekend with three first-place finishes for the Lions.

Hofer finished first in both the 50 and 100-yard freestyle events (25.17, 54.66) and also contributed to the College’s winning 400 freestyle relay team. Other Lion swimmers involved in the relay event were freshman Melissa Hessler, Varvaro and sophomore Margaret Molloy, who helped post a time of 3:43.22.

Molloy also finished the 1,000-yard freestyle in 10:53.85 for the win while fellow sophomore Katie Morgan was victorious in the 100-yard breaststroke as she finished in 1:09.47. To continue the winning trend, Varvaro won the 100-yard backstroke in 1:01.31. Senior Stefanie Rashti was a winner in the 200-yard butterfly with a time of 2:17.04.

Both squads are currently looking ahead to the Lions’ Invitational this weekend. The three-day dual tournament against Springfield University will assist in preparation for the College as they train for more difficult meets in the future.

“We are preparing for it like any other meet,” Hofer said. “We’re training hard in practice and focusing on doing well at the meet.”