Lions feast on competition during Thanksgiving break

By George Tatoris 

Sports Editor 

The College’s swimming and diving teams had more to digest than turkey and stuffing over Thanksgiving break.

The Lions withstood a grueling dual meet against the New York University (NYU) Violets the previous Saturday, Nov. 19. While the women’s team were routed, 223-71, by the eighth-ranked Violets, the men’s team slipped past them in the final event of the meet for a 151-143 victory.

The 12th-ranked men’s Lions were barely ahead, 140-137, when senior Scott Vitabile, sophomore Alex Skoog and seniors Ryan Gajdzsiz and Andrew Nesbitt readied themselves for the 400-yard freestyle relay. Whichever quartet finished first would be given 11 points, and the overall win. It was a similar scene to last year’s NYU meet, which the Lions lost, 151-147.

Gajdzisz claims victory in the 500-free relay. (Courtesy of Sports Information Desk)
Gajdzisz claims victory in the 500-free relay. (Courtesy of Sports Information Desk)

In that 400-free relay, the Violets wormed ahead by mere milliseconds. This year, things went differently. Vitabile, Skoog, Gajdzsiz and Nesbitt skated by with a time of 3:05.90 — four seconds more than the Violets A team — giving the Lions the win.

“It was one of the most exciting meets I’ve experienced during my 29 years at TCNJ,” said men’s team head coach Brian Bishop. “I was very impressed with the energy that the team displayed throughout the entire contest. Winning it in the last relay was a fitting end to an awesome meet.”

The Lions got ahead early in the first two events. In the 200-yard medley relay, junior Adam Coppola, Nesbitt, Skoog and Gajdzsiz took first with a time of 1:34.38. Soon after, freshman Harrison Yi and junior Logan Barnes put the Lions further ahead with a tandem finish — Yi took first with 9:56.98 and Barnes followed second two minutes later with 9:58.55.

Vitabile, Gajdzsiz and freshman David Madigan furthered the Lions lead in the 200-yard freestyle race. Vitabile touched the wall first at 1:43.03. Not a second passed before teammate Gajdzsiz finished with a time of 1:43.42. Madigan took third with a time of 1:46.18. According to Bishop, Vitabile helped elevate the team.

“Team captain Scott Vitabile had a tremendous day and demonstrated his leadership throughout the entire competition,” Bishop said.

The Violets were able to reduce the deficit in the 100-back and 100-breast, but the Lions continued to put out strong performances. Sophomore Samuel Maquet dominated the 200-yard butterfly with a time of 1:55.35. The men continued to dominate the freestyle, as well.

Coppola took top honors in the 50-free with a time of 21.64, Vitabile took first in the 100-free with a time of 46.61 and Gajdzsiz and Yi placed one-two in the 500-free with times of 4:46.76 and 4:47.49, respectively.

“Yi had another outstanding meet and I expect more great things from him for the rest of this season and beyond,” Bishop said.

Despite its loss, the women’s team had a number of highlights.

Like the men’s team, the Lions did well in the 500-free. Sophomore Gabi Denicola and juniors Marta Lawler and Debbie Meskin swept the race for the ladies, with respective times of 5:29.66, 5:40.10 and 5:45.32.

Senior Brenna Strollo provided the Lions with four points in the 100-yard backstroke and juniors Ali Huber and Cassidy Bergeron finished in tandem, taking the second- and third-place spots in the 100-fly with respective times of 1:03.30 and 1:03.87.

The women’s divers also finished close in the 1-meter dive. Junior Hannah Raymond took second with a score of 296.33 while senior Sarah Grassi took third with a score of 288.75.

Junior Jill Galindo gave the Lions a few points with a third-place finish in the 200-yard backstroke. Meskin contributed two third-place finishes in the 200-yard individual medley and the 200-fly with times of 2:20.66 and 2:17.35, respectively.

After a week-long break, the Lions return to host the TCNJ Invitational from Friday, Dec. 2, to Sunday, Dec. 4.