By Miguel Gonzalez
Records to break. Titles to win. Another chance to win the annual Metropolitan Conference Championship.
With the end of October approaching, a new season has begun for men’s and women’s swimming and diving teams.
On Friday, Oct. 20, the men’s team swept Division II’s Southern Connecticut State University, 189-100 and the women’s team swam past Connecticut, 162-126, in Packer Hall.
After finishing in 12th place at NCAA Division III National Swimming Championship last year, the men’s swimming and diving team had to say goodbye to a beloved core of seniors who have led to great success.
“The three seniors, Scott Vitabile, Andrew Nesbitt and Ryan Gajdzisz along with Adam Coppola will be sorely missed,” said head coach Brian Bishop.
Coppola is ineligible to compete in his last year because he participated in a club team during his freshman year, according to Bishop.
“We were hoping Coppola would be eligible this season, however, the NCAA ruled that since he competed with the TCNJ club team as a freshmen, last year was his final season of eligibility,” Bishop said. “Between the four they earned over 30 All-American Awards as well as several national titles. Replacing them will be a challenge but we have the ‘next man up’ mentality.”
With the mentality in mind, younger swimmers showed their potential with wins against Southern Connecticut State University.
During the meet, freshman Joseph Skotnicki placed first in the 500- and 1,000-freestyle while fellow freshman Andrew Thompson steamrolled his opponents in the 100- and 200-backstroke.
Sophomore Harrison Yi, who was the New Jersey Athletic Conference’s rookie of the year last season, bursted to first place at the 200-freestyle and clocked in at 1:43.37. Yi also claimed second place in the 100-freestyle, finishing behind junior Alex Skoog.
Bishop commented on Yi’s growth as a top swimmer in the conference.
“Harrison is training at an unbelievable pace and early season indications are that he will be even better as a sophomore,” Bishop said. “As long as he maintains focus, I see no reason why he can’t earn Individual All-American honors at NCAA’s this year.”
Just like the Harrison and the freshmen, the upperclassmen also dominated against the Owls.
Senior Phil Binaco was the first to touch the wall in the 50-freestyle, clocking in at 22.09. Fellow senior Logan Barnes led the 200-breaststroke with a time of 2:18.14. Meanwhile, junior Sam Maquet was on top of the competition at the 100- and 200-butterfly events with times of 53.52 and 1:56.37 respectively.
Bishop is confident of the senior members’ leadership will lead the Lions to a top 10 finish at the National Championship.
“Our current upperclassmen led by Logan Barnes, senior Chris O’Sullivan and Alex Skoog will be integral in the team’s success,” Bishop said. “Our goal will be to return to the top 10 at the NCAA Championships this spring.”
The women’s swimming and diving team also showcased the talent of their freshmen.
Freshman Katie Doyle powered through 100-backstroke as she claimed first place with a time of 1:04.01. In the midst, freshman Elise Fraser won the 50-freestyle in 25.09 and freshman Jamie Brown snatched first place at the 100-butterfly in 1:00.77.
Just like the men, the senior members of the women’s team also barreled through the Owls.
Senior captain Jill Galindo led at two events, the 200-backstroke and 200-individual relays with times of 2:16.17 and 2:19.23.
At the diving board, senior Hannah Raymond won first place at the 1-meter with a tally of 306.15.
Both the men’s and women’s swimming and diving teams will be on the road this Friday, Oct. 27, as they take on conference foe, Montclair State University.