Men win ninth-straight MET Championship

By Jessica Ganga
Nation & World Editor

The men capture their ninth-consecutive MET Championship as they look forward to the NCAA Championships.  (Photo courtesy of the Sports Information Desk)
The men capture their ninth-consecutive MET Championship as they look forward to the NCAA Championships. (Photo courtesy of the Sports Information Desk)

It was a show of dominance for the men’s swimming and diving team — grabbing the Lions’ ninth consecutive title in the three-day Metropolitan Conference Championship at Rutgers University on Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 21-22.

The men’s team took the top spot with a score of 1,404, beating out Rowan University and the University of Bridgeport. The women’s team placed third overall with a score of 760.5 points.

From the start of the championship, it was evident that the men’s team was ready to own the water. In the first race, junior Joseph Dunn, senior Brian Perez, junior James Shangle and senior Brett Pederson competed in a thrilling 200-yard freestyle relay. Dunn touched the wall in the final lap of the race with a time of 1:21.30, the same time as their opponent, the University of Bridgepoint. The four teammates were able to gain the team 60 points from the race.

In the 500-yard freestyle, sophomore Ryan Gajdzisz took second place with his fastest time of the season, 4:31.00. This foreshadowed the story of the second night of the competition — the College swimmer’s taking personal bests and breaking records.

In the 100-yard butterfly, Dunn was able to post a record-breaking time of 48.72, along with his teammate, senior Aleksander Burzysnki, who broke the College’s record in the 100-yard backstroke.

Burzynski, Shangle, Dunn and Pederson opened the Saturday session with the 200-yard medley relay. The men swam for a record-breaking time of 1:29.68 — the fastest finishing time ever for the Lions in this event.

During the 200-yard freestyle, the Lions were able to overtake the leading Profs. Gajdzisz won the event with a time of 1:39.17, followed by sophomore Scott Vitabile and Pederson, with times of 1:40.21 and 1:40.60, respectively, allowing the College to sweep the top spots.

On the final day of the competition, the team continued its dominating presence with more impressive finishes that eventually led the team to win the MET Championship title.

Gajdzisz finished off his strong weekend by breaking the College’s record in the tiring 1,650-yard freestyle with a first place finishing time of 15:47.23. The record was previously held by current assistant coach Michael Caputo.

“I could not be happier for Gajdzisz,” Caputo said. “I knew when he walked in the door last year that he had something special, and what we’ve seen from him so far is just a taste of what he will accomplish throughout the rest of his career. To have a record broken is a great feeling because it indicates progress in the program, and to have a hand in that progress as a coach makes it even better. The most exciting part is to now see how much lower he can make that record for the next guy.”

Freshman Logan Barnes finished third in the event with a time of 16:06.54, and sophomore Jason Ivins followed close behind with a time of 16:08.52 to finish fourth.

In the final event, Dunn, Perez, Vitabile and Pederson raced together in the 400-yard freestyle with an NCAA provisional time of 2:59.42, which ended the winning night on high as the team celebrated their championship win.

The women came into the championship with the same determination and drive as the men’s team, which was seen throughout the weekend of competition.

Sophomore Brenna Strollo added to the already growing score for the Lions after coming in first place in the 200-yard individual medley at. Freshmen Debbie Meskin and Marta Lawler placed 11th and 12th in the same event with times of 2:08.41 and 2:13.09.

Later in the meet, Meskin and Lawler, along with senior Summer Thomas and freshman Katie Kilfeather, had a season’s best time of 4:03.54 in the 400-yard medley relay. The foursome placed seventh in the event.

By the second day of the competition, the team had reached a total of 596.5 points — the highest total among Division III teams.

In the 100-yard butterfly B-final, Meskin took the top spot with a fast time of 59.60 and took first again in the 400-yard medley B-final with a time of 4:43.96.

On the last day of the competition, the team continued to add to their score to take third place in the championship.

Strollo, Thomas and sisters freshman Emily Rothstein and junior Laura Rothstein finished third in the 400-yard freestyle relay with a time of 3:34.78, earning them enough points to keep their third place spot in the championship.

It was a full team effort, with senior Katie Reilly and junior Melissa Haley placing 13th and 14th in the 1,650-yard freestyle with finishing times of 19:05.87 and 19:26.33, respectively.

Both the men’s and women’s team showed just how hard they worked this past season with their impressive times and winning titles. The men’s team now must wait to see if any swimmers have qualified for the 2015 NCAA Championships in Shenandoah, T.X. in March.

Managing Editor Julie Kayzerman contributed to this report

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