F&M swim teams prove polls wrong, step up as force to be reckoned with

BY MARK ROSSMAN ’14
Sports Editor

Last weekend, the Centennial Conference Championships signified the end of the swim season this year. In the three-day championships hosted at home in the Kunkel Aquatic Center, F&M competed against six conference competitors, Dickinson College, Gettysburg College, McDaniel College, Swarthmore College, Ursinus College, and Washington College.

According to the preseason coaches poll, a poll where all conference coaches come together and vote on how each team will place at the end of the season, F&M’s men’s team was projected to place fifth in the conference, and the women’s team was projected to place fourth. In the end, both men’s and women’s teams placed third in the championships.

“It was nice to prove the conference wrong and show them how hard we have been working,” said Maggie
Johns ’14.

“I would like to think this conference will never underestimate us ever again,” said Katherine Grant ’15.

“Going into the meet, it was obvious that many of the other teams thought that they would be able to crush us, and that the long history of F&M being a dominant force in swimming was over,” said John Zipp ’14. “Both the men’s and the women’s teams proved them all wrong.”

The team really came together this season.

“This season has been a rollercoaster. In the beginning we had some problems of all coming together as a team. We lost a lot of great swimmers the previous year, and the other teams in the conference had voted us at the bottom of the conference,” Zipp said. “But nevertheless Coach Ben knew we were far better than what it said on paper, and so starting from day one it was back to work, back to hell, and we weren’t stopping until we reached our goals. It wasn’t until mid-season, though, when we all really started to come together, and we realized that we could do this,” Zipp said.

Multiple school records were set during championships. The relay of Zipp, Richard Denton ’15, Zachary Wilt ’13, and Jake Reingold ’13 broke the men’s 800-free relay record, with time of 6:54.36. Zipp also broke the 100-free record with a 46.62 time, and the 200-free record with a 1:47.96 time.The relay of Grant, Johns, Krista Hollingsworth ’13, and Alexia Tomlinson ’14 broke the 800-free relay record with a time of 7:50.10.

“I’ve never been so emotional, happy, and proud of my teammates and it was a great end to my swimming career to break a relay record,” Hollingsworth said.

Both men’s and women’s teams picked up multiple medals throughout the event. To name a few, Zipp won the gold medal at the 100-yard freestyle with a time of 45.93, and Grant won the gold in the 1650-yard freestyle with a 17:12.30 time.

“There are the highlights like when people got best times, came in first, won a close race or broke records, but I would have to say the greatest moment for me came when the meet was over,” Grant said. “We wanted to shake hands with Ursinus to tell them congratulations for having an incredible meet and ended up starting a line of handshakes and congratulations with the entire conference. Seeing every swimmer lined up waiting to congratulate each other was something I had never seen before.”

“To be a part of a team that has that much sportsmanship is an amazing feeling,” said Tim
Landon ’14.

The teams have 14 seniors graduating, and will certainly feel their absence next year. Much of their success this season, swimmers argue, was attained because of their involvement.

“I am going to be sad to see them graduate, they helped push me in and out of the pool this season,” said Courtney Collins ’16.

“It’s hard to put into words how much the senior swimmers have transformed this team over the course of five months,” Grant said. “They have been incredible role models, in and out of the pool, and truly made this team one big family, a family that every one of our members is proud and honored to say they are part of. They are an exceptional group of men and women who will be missed more than they will ever know next year.”

Zipp expresses similar gratitude in the swimmers’ graduating class.

“[The seniors] have instilled what it means to be a Diplomat, and more so what it means to be part of something more than just a sports team,” Zipp said. “Our team is our family, and the seniors are our big brothers and sisters. As corny as it sounds, every underclassmen looks up to them as leaders and role models. It is not easy making through four years of swimming, with the 5 a.m. practices, the long, long weeks of training, and a season that stretches from September ’til the end of February. It takes a different kind of person to be able to handle all of that and still have a smile on their face, and each one of these seniors did that day in and day out.”

For one swimmer, however, the season is far from over. Grant qualified for the NCAA Championships in three different events, the 1650-yard freestyle, the 500-yard freestyle, and the 200-yard freestyle. The Championships will be held March 20-23 in Shenandoah, Texas.

Grant certainly has the entire team behind her when she boards that plane going to Shenandoah to compete. The team has come together as a force to be reckoned with, a team that has proven everybody wrong, perhaps even themselves.

Questions? Email Mark at mrossman@fandm.edu.

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