Freshman Jeff Echols wins second place in the 200m butterfly final. (Natalie Sandlow/Contributing)

Emory University hosted the 2022 University Athletic Association (UAA) Swimming and Diving Championships at the Woodruff Physical Education Center. The meet commenced on Feb. 9 and concluded with the Emory swimming and diving teams crowned as UAA champions on Feb. 12. 

With the return of spectators, the Madeline Jude Brown Aquatic Center at the Woodruff Physical Education Center was replete with swimmers, fans and coaches from all eight competing schools led by the nationally second-ranked Emory women’s team and first-ranked Emory men’s team.

Emory has dominated the UAA conference since 1999, and this year was no exception. 

The Eagles led the four-day meet with 1,807 points for the men’s team and 2,128 points for the women’s team, marking their 29th overall victory. The Eagles also brought home a total of 56 All-UAA performances, 10 UAA records and 23 event titles. 

The Eagles’ also stood out individually. First-year Jeff Echols was named Men’s Freshman Rookie of the Year, the second Eagle to win the award since 2017. He was accompanied on the award platform by junior Lucas Bumgarner, who won the Men’s Diver of the Year for the third time in a row as he finished first in the 3-meter and 1-meter final. 

“I felt really good out there,” Bumgarner, UAA Athlete of the Week, said. “Honestly, having my teammates all on deck, my family and all the Emory parents on the stands definitely helps to be successful as well as just trusting my coach, trusting my training and all the work that we have been putting in over the last few months.”

Sophomore Nicholas Goudie also kept up the Eagle’s winning streak for the rest of the meet, setting the 50-yard freestyle and 400-yard medley relay UAA record, accompanied by junior Ryan Soh, sophomore Jake Meyer and senior Hwa Min Sim

“I wanted to match some times that I had swam in December and kind of just set myself up with a couple of swims that I could be confident with, and going to the National meet in March, feeling good about my stroke and about my swimming,” Goudie said. 

Sophomore Megan Jungers was named the Women’s Sophomore Rookie of the Year and senior Taylor Leone was named the Women’s Swimmer of the Year title, as she also broke UAA records in five events: 50-yard freestyle (22.97), 100-yard butterfly (54.20), 200-yard freestyle relay (1:31.74), 400-yard medley relay (3:40.63) and 200-yard medley relay (1:40.37).

Leone, the current UAA Athlete of the Week, strived to score as many possible points for her team, while also having fun.

“I didn’t have any expectations about the times I would swim,” Leone said. “I just wanted to get out there and race and try to get my hand to the wall first.”

Outside of the pool, Head Coach Jon Howell, along with his staff Cindy Fontana, John Petroff and Bob Hackett, were named Men’s Coaching Staff of the Year, sharing the award with the University of Chicago (Ill.).

“It was exhausting, but they did a great job, and this is a stepping stone towards the nationals, so I feel like this meet sets us up for a great arch,” Howell said. 

“I think we have two really good teams, and it has been a while since we have competed at this level, so they really rose to the occasion.” 

The Eagles will advance to the NCAA Championships held in Indiana on March 16 to 19. Given the team’s strong presence at past national competitions, the Eagles are preparing to hopefully capture their 11th consecutive NCAA Championship for the women’s team in  Indiana. 

“We’ve never got to actually compete at this meet because of COVID-19 and all these setbacks,” Goudie said.“I am excited to actually be able to get there (nationals) for the first time. I already know the team is putting so much work to be here and everyone who is going is putting so much effort to be there.”

Swimmers dive into the pool during the UAA Championships on Feb. 12. (Natalie Sandlow/Contributing)