The men and women’s swimming and diving teams wrapped up their seasons in style last weekend. At the National Championships, which were held in Indianapolis, the men finished third in the country, behind Kenyon College (Ohio) and Denison University (Ohio). The women won their fifth straight NCAA Division III Championship.
The meet spanned four days and gave the Eagles a chance to show off their skills against competition from all over the country.
Many Emory student-athletes brought their best for the season’s final meet, but as Coach Jon Howell told the Wheel, “For results such as these, from both the men and women’s teams, obviously a fantastic team effort is necessary”.
While Howell made it clear that each member of the team has worked hard, he mentioned a few standout performers on both the men’s and women’s teams.
Senior Ross Spock, competing in his last meet for Emory, earned six all-American honors at the meet, including a National Championship in the 100-yard backstroke, an event in which he has been an All-American for each of his four years at Emory. Spock’s 21 career All-American honors are the most ever for an Emory swimmer. Sophomore Andrew Wilson finished second in the 200-yard backstroke, though his time bested the previous national record and beat the previous Emory record by more than a second.
The men’s relay teams also performed well in Indianapolis, prompting Howell to label their performance “phenomenal.” The men’s 200-yard medley relay team, consisting of Spock, Wilson, senior Jacob Stephens and senior Ryan Bass, won the national championship by more than one and a half seconds, which Howell explained is “unheard of in medley relay.”
Howell also was impressed by the 200 free relay team, which finished second in spite of a low seed and outside lane.
The women’s team won their fifth straight national title behind a solid team effort. Sophomore Elizabeth Aronoff, competing in the 200-yard breaststroke, won the team’s only National Championship, the first national title for a female Emory swimmer since 2012.
Howell called senior Courtney McDermott a “standout” and credited junior Nancy Larson for “leading us through the relays.” He also mentioned junior Megan Beach for “steadily getting better every year,” leading to her “exceptional” season in 2013-14.
The team dominated the competition, scoring 595.5 points, with Kenyon College placing second with 456.5. Johns Hopkins University (Md.) finished third with 387 points. The team finished the meet with an astounding total of 23 All-American honors, including one in each of the five relay events.
Success on a national scale is nothing new for Howell and the swimming and diving teams, as the men consistently place high, and the women have now won five straight titles and seven overall. The team’s seventh title increases its distinction as the most successful program at Emory, as its title count is unrivaled by any other Emory sport.
Howell believes a key to the team’s lasting success is “the highly supportive Emory community” as well as the senior leadership present on the teams.
The past three seasons have seen senior classes consisting of 20, 16, and 18 members. While the loss of so many leaders is always difficult to cope with, Howell said, “The reality is groups beneath them steps up as leaders.”
Howell explained that the “tremendous” leadership combines with the strong Emory community to “allow kids to continue to get better as well as have fun and support each other.”
While Howell already has one eye on next season, one characteristic of this team that will likely stick with him is that the 2013-14 team was a very close group “that really enjoyed each other.”
– By Oliver Rockman