Graduate student Jason Hamilton swims in the 100-yard breaststroke relay to win first place. (Courtesy of Eugene Soh)

The Emory University men’s and women’s swimming and diving teams competed at the 2023 NCAA Division III Swimming and Diving Championships from March 15 to 18 in Greensboro, N.C. For the second consecutive year, the men’s team won a national championship and the women’s team finished as runners-up.

Men secure five national titles, 24 All-America honors en route to championship

The defending champions started off strong, ending the first day of the meet in first place. Senior Ryan Soh, junior Jake Meyer, sophomore Jeff Echols and senior Colin LaFave set a national record with their win in the 200-yard medley relay (1:25.85). Senior Pat Pema won his first individual national title in the 500-yard freestyle, improving from his fourth place finish last year in the same event. Pema also set an Emory record of 4:20.21, breaking the previous record of 4:21:43 set by Christian Baker (17C) in 2016.

“He’s been wanting to win an individual title for the last four years and has gotten closer and closer,” Emory Swimming & Diving Head Coach Jon Howell said. “So, to see that realized, especially his senior year, was really special for all of us.”

On the second day of events, Pema finished second in the 200-yard freestyle and senior Lucas Bumgarner‘s score of 520.50 earned him second place in the 1-meter dive. Pema, LaFave, junior Nicholas Goudie and freshman Caden Bjornstad came in third in the 200-yard freestyle relay, and sophomore Crow Thorsen and junior Ryan Gibbons placed third and fourth in the 400-yard individual medley, respectively.

The Eagles trailed Kenyon College (Ohio) by 25 points at the half-way point of the competition. However, the team retook first place on the third day after earning two more national titles. Pema, Goudie, Thorsen and graduate student Jason Hamilton won the 100-yard breaststroke relay, setting another national record with a time of 6:26.98.

Pema said that the team’s supportive atmosphere was a major factor in their success because they believed they could catch Kenyon. He added that it was “amazing” to win national titles and set records with his teammates at his final meet for Emory.

“I really wanted to go out on a high note, pull out all the stops for this one,” Pema said. “[I] knew that I had to get everything right because this was going to be the last time I ever touched the pool, at least in college competitively and with the team that I love. So, I was really glad to end on a performance that I couldn’t be happier with.”

Like Pema, Meyer also won his first national individual title in the 100-yard breaststroke. He said seeing his hard work pays off  “means the world” to him.

“Obviously, I’m thrilled to be a national champion,” Meyer said. “It’s what we all work toward. But … to me it’s really made me reflect on the guys that I’m with every day: my training partners, my teammates, my coaches. They all deserve just as much credit for it as I do. I did it in the pool, but I couldn’t have done it without them.”

On the final night, the Eagles extended their lead over Kenyon with more top-three performances. Hamilton won his third consecutive national title in the 100-yard breaststroke, with Meyer finishing second. Bumgarner placed second in the 3-meter dive with a score of 590.80, and Goudie, Pema, Bjornstad and LaFave took third in the 400-yard freestyle relay (2:56.87).

Meyer said that the team’s focus heading into the championship was to give their best performance and “to simply not lose.”

“We’re all really proud of all the really hard work we put in this season,” Meyer said. “Everyone’s been super dedicated, and it’s super awesome to see all of the early mornings and all of the late nights pay off.”

      A swimmer of the women’s team dives against other national competitors. (Courtesy of Eugene Soh)

Women earn three national titles, 17 All-America honors

The women’s team began the meet with record-breaking performances. Sophomore Ariana Khan became Emory’s first national diving champion since 1993 and first-ever national champion in the 3-meter dive with a score of 478.40. Junior Megan Jungers, senior Anna Glowniak, graduate student Taylor Leone and senior Caroline Maki set a national record with their win in the 200-yard medley relay, clocking in at 1:39.55.

Earlier this season, Maki set the University Athletic Association (UAA) record in the 100-yard freestyle and UAA named her the Women’s Swimmer of the Year. Maki said it was exciting to end this season and her Emory swimming career by setting another record with her teammates.

“It was just such an honor to be at that meet in general, but it’s the icing on top to set the national record in the relay and just be up there at the top of the podium with my teammates is super fun,” Maki said. “We had a great time with it.”

The Eagles’ strong performances in the relays continued on the second day. Maki, Leone, senior Sammie Kass and freshman Penny Celtnieks won the 200-yard freestyle relay. Additionally, Maki, Leone, Jungers and Glowniak won the 400-yard medley relay. The team trailed Denison University (Ohio) by 85.5 points heading into the second half of the competition, but despite strong performances, they were not able to overtake the leaders. Khan earned a second place finish in the 1-meter dive and Jungers came second in the 100-yard backstroke. 

Khan became the first diver in Emory history to be named Women’s Diver of the Year. Khan said she was pleased with her impressive performances at nationals this season after she placed 20th in the 3-meter dive last year.

“I’m definitely really excited about that,” Khan said. “As of last year, I was not thrilled about my performance at the meet, and this year, I came into it wanting to be able to score points for my team. So, with all that in mind, diver of the year was great as well.

Diving coach Tomasz Rossa also earned Women’s Diving Coach of the Year. Howell said he was proud of the diving program’s overall success at the meet.

“Tomasz, this is his first year with us, and he’s been such a great addition to our community and our coaching staff and has done such a great job,” Howell said. “And, Ariana is a really special person who works really hard, and so those two things coming together, for me, is just a thrill.”

At the end of the meet, the women’s team placed second behind Denison, marking the program’s 21st consecutive top-four finish.

Maki said she was proud that her team was able to maintain the high standards set by their alumni at nationals. She attributed the team’s consistent success to their special culture.

“There’s not another team out there like us,” Maki said. “We’re all so close-knit. We go out there and our goal is just to be the team that everyone else wants to be on deck.”

Howell also said that the team has a unique commitment to improvement. He said that the “amazing group” continues to exceed his expectations.

“We’re always happy to see the work they put in produce results at the end,” Howell said. “I know our teams are very focused on being successful at the end. So, from our perspective, it’s just great to see [nationals] transpire the way it did.”

   The men’s team celebrates by looking towards the women’s team and Emory fans in the crowd. (Courtesy of Eugene Soh)

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Madeline Shapiro (she/her) (26C) is from Stamford, Connecticut and is planning on majoring in creative writing and classic civilizations. She enjoys playing low-stakes games of soccer and spending time outdoors, as well as watching as many Premier League games as possible.