Swimming and diving compete in home invite

By Sirianna Santacrose ’15

The energy was high as fans and swimmers alike cheered on their friends and teammates at Bristol Pool last Friday afternoon. After dual wins against Trinity in November, both the men’s and women’s teams were eager to build on that positive trajectory during the Hamilton Invitational, a meet that has been hosted on the Hill periodically since the team’s departure from the Liberty League. Hamilton men’s team racked up 1,068.5 team points for the win and the women conquered with 1,131 team points over the course of two days. SUNY Oneonta came in second, followed by SUNY Cortland, Colby and SUNY Potsdam.

In the men’s events, Reid Swartz ’15, Andrew McWhirter ’15, John McBratney ’16, and Ryan Cassidy ’17 had standout performances. Swartz won the 100- and 200-yard backstroke events, as well as the 100-yard butterfly. He, along with McBratney, McWhirter and Tripp Miller ’18 won the 800-yard freestyle relay in 7:13.55 minutes. Swartz, McWhirter, McBratney and Scott Becker ’17 proved to be a fearsome foursome in both the 200- and 400-yard freestyle relays.

McBratney and Miller racked up team points by winning the 500 freestyle and 200 individual medley, respectively. Cassidy, who “has done an amazing job in distance events,” according to Head Coach T.J. Davis, won the 1,650 freestyle event with a time of 17:17.39 and came in second place in the 500-yard freestyle and 400-yard individual medley events.

Swartz, a two-time NESCAC all-conference team member and in his second year as a team captain, currently holds the school record for the 50- and 100-yard backstroke, as well as the 100-yard individual medley. When asked about his outstanding performance last weekend, Swartz humbly replied, “It is nice being able to help the team with my individual swims, but I am more happy with the team’s performance as a whole.”

Davis said Swartz, “leads by example… He puts forth consistently the best effort he can… It’s refreshing to be around an athlete who’s old school in the sense that he works hard and is humble in how he goes about his business.” Swartz hopes to qualify for the NCAA championship meet in March, and Davis is confident in his ability to do so. “With continued training,” Davis said, “I think he can be a factor with national qualification consideration for the NCAA Championships.”

Captain McKenna Kelly ’15, Sarah Hooper ’16 and Lauren Halladay ’16 had standout performances in the women’s events. Kelly won three individual events, the 200, 500 and 1,650 freestyle. She, Hooper, Hannah Mooney ’17 and Lauren Klei ’18 collectively won the 200, 400 and 800 free relay events. Hooper won the 50-yard freestyle with a time of 25.07 seconds and the 100-yard freestyle in 54.62 seconds. Klei came in second in the latter event. Halladay was the runner-up in both the 100- and 200-yard breastroke events.

Kelly, who holds the program record in the 1,000-yard freestyle, is both a competitive and mindful swimmer and team captain. For a sport so highly dependent on mental fortitude, Davis is very pleased with Kelly’s performances. “McKenna is so tenacious in pursuit of these distance events,” he said. “It’s a special swimmer who can swim those events.” Like Reid Swartz, Coach Davis said Kelly “is vocal when she needs to be and leads by example with her work ethic.”

Coach Davis described both the men’s and women’s relay events as “really dynamite. It’s always great to have a four-person synergy come together for relays [and] it’s a wonderful team metaphor.” Of the Hamilton Invitational as a whole, Davis stated: “It was honestly one of the most spectacular in-season performances I can recall of having a team in my 19 years as head coach… All of my expectations were blown away and exceeded.”

A large part of that success can be attributed to Davis, who motivates his athletes to work hard and perform at a consistently high level. Senior captain Ben Fields said, “[Davis] is our biggest advocate in and out of the pool, and it helps us want to swim hard.”

After an away meet against NESCAC rival Wesleyan on Jan. 3, both teams will attend a weeklong training trip to the Florida Keys. The swimmers will train in a long course pool, which is more than twice the size of Bristol Pool. The larger size will allow swimmers “to lengthen out their strokes and develop an aerobic base,” as Coach Davis explained. They will also compete against Washington College and Colby-Sawyer College at the Founders Invitational in Florida on Jan. 10.

Looking ahead, the swimmers are eager to qualify for the NCAA Championships in as many events as possible. McBratney said, “From now until we rest for the NESCAC Championship, it’ll be about fine-tuning our technique and continuing improvement in our sprinting.”

Based on the support the Hamilton swim team has already received this season, its progress moving forward will be followed by many with interest. And the support the swimmers offer each other is second to none. As Fields put it, “There’s nothing quite like the feeling of diving into the pool knowing that 49-odd people are on the deck screaming their lungs out for you.”

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