By Jessica Ganga
Coming off a win last week where both teams took home New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) titles, the men’s and women’s swimming and diving teams came into their meet against William Paterson University Pioneers the same way they left off last week.
The Lions took control of the pool, beating the William Paterson by a staggering score on Saturday, Feb. 6, in Wayne, N.J. The men’s team crushed the Pioneers, 148-83, and the women flew past their opponents, defeating them, 161-80.
The men’s team got the winning-day started by taking first place in the men’s 400-yard medley relay. Freshmen Alex Skoog and Jason Ivins, sophomore Chris O’Sullivan and junior Scott Vitabile raced into first with a time of 3:32.06. The win set the momentum for the rest of the meet for the Lions.
It would be a day of sweeps for the men’s team, winning three events during the day. In the men’s 1,000-yard freestyle, freshman John Gregory, sophomore Logan Barnes and Ivins went one, two and three with respective times of 10:33.48, 10:45.41 and 10:47.85. The Lions would go on to sweep the 100-yard freestyle and the 100-yard backstroke with senior James Shangle taking the top spot in the 100-yard back with a time of 54.02.
In the 100-yard free, junior Anthony Gurrieri led the pack, touching the wall with a time of 49.33. O’Sullivan sped in right after with a time 50.22 and junior Vince Masciandaro took third with a time of 51.52.
Alongside the men’s team, the women’s team came into the water hot, with dominating performances all around.
Sophomore Cassidy Bergeron had an impressive day in the water, taking first in two individual events — the women’s 100-yard freestyle and the 1,000-yard freestyle, an event she usually does not race in.
“It is not my usual event to race, so preparing for it was quite different than my regular events,” Bergeron said. “I got advice from my coaches and teammates on how the best way to swim it is. My top fear for this event was that I would go out too fast and not be able to maintain my speed, so it was important for me not to go hard in the beginning of the race and instead take my strokes long and smooth.”
Bergeron coasted into the wall with a time of 12:10.22 in the 1,000-yard freestyle. She went on to race for an impressive time of 59.82 in the 100-yard free.
Competing alongside classmates Marta Lawler, Robin Lukens and Emily Rothstein, Bergeron helped the team gain first in the 400-yard freestyle relay, clocking in a time of 3:21.43.
Senior Eilish Devine had a busy day in the water, taking the top seed in two individual events — the women’s 200-yard freestyle and the women’s 500-yard freestyle. In the 200-yard free, Devine swam to the wall with her Pioneers opponent on her tail. Devine took first with a time of 2:07.41, a second in front of her competitor. It was another race of just mere seconds when Devin later competed in the 500 free, during which she won with a time of 5:38.57, again, beating her opponent by a second.
The women, like the men, once again boasted another winning season and shared many memories and highlights throughout.
“This season has been a blast and I’m sad to see it end,” Lawler said. “An individual memory I’ll take away from this season is winning two events at the Lion Invite. It was a really exciting time for me because the wins really showcased all of my hard work.”
As the regular season comes to a close, both teams are looking forward to competing the Metropolitan Conference Championships (METS) and the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Championships.
Head coach of the women’s team, Jennifer Harnett, now has to prepare her team for the challenging road ahead.
“This week, we start tapering for METs, which means we decrease the yardage and practice time so they are more rested for the MET championships,” Harnett said.
Even though it has been a season with hard work and tiring practices, Harnett is proud of everything her team has done. Looking back at the season, Harnett reflected on her team’s accomplishments.
“It has been a great season both in and out of the pool,” Harnett said. “I think the Lions Invitational and Rowan (University) meet are two of my favorite meets because of the energy the team brought. Outside of the pool, we had some fun team building activities, such as going to a rope course and indoor rock climbing, that created a lot of memories. I am very lucky because I get to work with so many interesting and amazing student-athletes. This year was a true testament to that.”
The teammates themselves know just how hard they have pushed themselves this season and Lawler witnessed that as they took home the NJAC title the previous week.
“‘Pride’ is the first word that comes to mind when I think about winning the NJAC,” Lawler said. “I’m a proud member of my team and I’m even more proud of every member of the team for their performances thus far. This season, we made winning a top priority, and I’m proud to say that we’ve accomplished something we set out to do.“