Star Meet: Navy Women Extend Win Streak Over Army to 35 Years, Men Bounce Back with Victory

2023 Army vs. Navy

  • Dec. 7, 2023
  • Annapolis, Maryland
  • PDF results
  • Team scores
    • Women: Navy 162, Army 138
    • Men: Navy 153, Army 147

The Navy women (5-1) extended their winning streak against Army (2-1) to 35 years with a 162-138 victory in the annual Star Meet on Thursday, but that result marked the closest the matchup has been since 2000 (151-149).

On the men’s side, Navy (6-1) bounced back with a tight 153-147 win after losing last year’s rivalry showdown for the first time in 32 years. The seven-point margin of victory was the slimmest since Navy beat Army, 125-118, back in 1993.

Despite getting swept, the Black Knight broke 11 program records across the 32 events.

In the football edition of the Star Series on Saturday, Army came up with a goal-line stand in the final seconds to clinch a 17-11 win against Navy.

Women’s Recap

The Navy women led from start to finish, but Army hung around the entire time as they split the 16 events contested on Thursday.

Navy freshman Ela Habjan had a huge meet highlighted by her 100 back win in 53.87, which broke the Navy (54.02), meet (54.02), and Patriot League records (53.23) in the event. The freshman from New Jersey lowered her previous-best 53.87 from April by exactly a second. Habjan also won the 200 back in 1:55.79, shaving more than three seconds off her previous-best 1:58.91 from last March. She added a third personal best with her 50 back leadoff (24.96) on Navy’s victorious 200 medley relay (1:38.70), dropping a few tenths off her previous-best 25.34.

Sprint freestyle specialist Maya Novack secured the 50 free (23.02) and 100 free (49.97) crowns for Navy, both in personal-best times. The senior from Wisconsin dropped .13 seconds in the 50 free and .72 seconds in the 100 free. Novack also anchored Navy’s 200 medley relay team with a 22.64 free split.

Caroline Irwin also captured multiple individual titles for the Navy women in the 100 fly (53.82) and 200 fly (1:58.10). The junior from Georgia has been as fast as 53.13 in the 100 fly and 1:57.71 in the 200 fly last December. Irwin also contributed a 23.70 fly split on Navy’s 200 medley relay.

“The energy in Lejeune was incredible,” Navy women’s swimming head coach John Morrison said. “A huge thank you to the families, alumni and friends for coming out to support the meet. And congratulations to Army. They had an incredible meet.

“I was real proud of how our team responded to the challenges we faced,” Morrison added. “We had an all-in team effort to win the day. We competed with a never-give-up mentality and it carried us to the end.”

“This atmosphere is like nothing else,” said Navy women’s team captain Theresa Milio, who placed 5th in the 200 breast (2:20.44). “To have the crowd like this behind you, cheering you on with your teammates by your side makes people like that haven’t before. It is awesome.

“Our team never takes anything for granted,” Milio added. “We don’t take the streak for granted. It is blank slate every year and we know we have to fight against a really talented team. Just trusting in our training and trusting our teammates knowing we put our all into it to pull through in the end.”

Army sophomore Molly Webber established a new Academy record in the 1000 free with a 9:58.91, dropping more than a dozen seconds off her previous-best 10:11.64 from last month. She kept her momentum going in the 200 free, where she set another program record with a winning time of 1:46.88 before capping her impressive session with a 500 free victory in 4:49.74.

Army senior Aurelie Migault (1:02.50) and sophomore Catriona Gilmore (1:03.13) went 1-2 in the 100 breast while Minh Donnell swept the diving events (248.10 1-meter and 263.10 3-meter) to keep the Black Knights within striking distance. Migault completed the breaststroke sweep by securing the 200 breast crown in a personal-best 2:09.92, dipping under the 2:10 barrier for the first time, before running away with the 200 IM title in 2:00.14.

Men’s Recap

Navy freshman Ben Irwin made a huge impact at his first Star Meet, taking down the Navy (1:41.95), meet (1:43.47), and Patriot League (1:41.95) records in the 200 back during his victory in 1:41.50. That time marked a new lifetime best, shaving a few tenths off his previous-best 1:41.86 from last December. Irwin also won the 100 back in 46.18, slicing .13 seconds off his previous-best 46.31 from last December. The Georgia native switched his commitment from Georgia Tech to Navy in January, becoming the first Midshipmen recruit ever under 20 seconds in the 50 free.

Navy senior Patrick Colwell swept the 100 fly (46.54) and 200 fly (1:44.06) in lifetime bests while adding a personal-best 22.02 50 back leadoff on the Mids’ 200 medley ‘B’ relay (1:25.71). The Connecticut native dropped three-tenths of a second off her previous-best 100 fly from the 2022 Patriot League Championships and .73 seconds off her previous-best 200 fly from the 2023 Patriot League Championships.

Navy junior Blakeman Shaw dominated the diving events with 1st-place finishes on the 1-meter (362.63) and 3-meter (339.90). Navy senior Jonah Harm triumphed in the 50 free (19.74) while Juan Mora added a victory in the 200 breast with a personal-best 1:54.53 along with a runner-up finish in the 100 breast (52.49) just a hair behind Army sophomore Kohen Rankin‘s new Academy record of 52.48.

“This meet is special on so many levels,” Navy men’s swimming head coach Bill Roberts said. “Before you even get to discussing the meet itself, it is one of the best dual meet environments in the NCAA. We want to extend a huge thank you to all who came out tonight to support the meet as well as all who worked behind the scenes to make this a special event for both programs.

“In the water, we were anticipating a very close meet. This meet was interesting as there were several events that did not go the way we had planned. This is a tribute to the intensity of the competition as we really had to fight and claw for every point along the way. I was really proud of the way this team responded to the results of each event.”

“This is an incredible place to swim,” Navy men’s team captain Matt Murphy said. “Words are hard to describe it. In that first relay when we touched first and the whole place exploded, it was ridiculous.

“Obviously, events don’t go as planned,” Murphy added. “They never do. That’s why we swim the meet. If we went off of paper, this meet would have gone completely differently. I think the turning point was the 200 breast when Juan Mora won with a career-best time. That turned the momentum our way.”

Army swept the podium in the 1000 free to kick off the meet courtesy of Ian Tansill (9:02.00), CJ Bernauer (9:05.58), and Brice Barrieault (9:05.67). Army junior Wes Tate kept it going for the Black Knights with a meet record in the 200 free (1:35.14).

They still had a chance at unlikely comeback win heading into the 400 free relay after Alex Edwards (1:45.84) and Sam Wesley (1:46.45) went 1-2 in the 200 IM. But even though Army tallied a new Patriot League record in the 400 free relay (2:53.57), Navy placed 2nd-4th to secure the overall meet sweep. Ben Vorthmann (43.72), Thomas Hadji (43.24), Owen Harlow (42.99), and Wes Tate (43.62) combined for Army’s record-breaking 400 free relay time.

“I couldn’t more proud of the way the team competed and carried themselves this evening,” Army head coach Brandt Nigro said. “They showed grit and resilience from start to finish and put up one of the best single night performances in program history.

“Navy did an awesome job creating a very energetic and hostile environment,” Nigro continued. “This meet can be tough to handle and be at your best given the atmosphere and intensity of the moment – it’s something we’ve worked on and talked about over the years. Our team did a great job staying focused on ourselves and our mission and kept the external distractions external. They were professional in the way they carried themselves and showed class. This rivalry is intense and our team is often forced to deal with unsportsmanlike conduct from the other side, still they stayed dialed in and didn’t let the nonsense get to them – and for that I’m very proud.

“We had some incredible performances tonight — both on the boards and in the pool,” he added. “There are too many highlights to mention them all here, but hats off to our entire “Firstie” class for what they’ve done for our program over the years and how well they competed tonight. They’ve continued to improve through their four years and many had lifetime best and set academy records tonight’s. It was great to see Melinda Zhang and Bruce Bannister set their first individual academy records. And, Aurelie continued to chip away at her 200 Breast Record, breaking 2:10 for the first time. James Pinter had the meet of his career and swam great from start to finish. Though the final scores weren’t what we wanted we learned a lot from the experience and are ready to take those lessons back to practice this Sunday.”

During LCM time trials on Friday, Army freshman Kalvin Hahn earned a 2024 U.S. Olympic Trials cut in the 400 IM (4:25.19), dropping more than two seconds off his previous-best 4:27.72 from last August.

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2 months ago

Interesting to see diving’s impact on the meet. Army won the swim meet, just lost it on diving.

Reply to  SharkMaui
2 months ago

Dang. Sounds like they should recruit better divers next season.

2 months ago

Navy put army men figures on the floor in the shower room! How disrespectful to our troops!

beat army
Reply to  I<3iantansill
2 months ago

The navy guys are in the military too… its the biggest rivalry in college athletics.

Reply to  I<3iantansill
2 months ago

Are those the same army figures that the army threw all over the Navy pool deck the night before? Just checking what constitutes disrespect to the troops.

Not Wes Tate
2 months ago

1-2-3! GO ARM-Y! 1-2-3! GO ARM-Y! 1-2-3! GO ARM-Y!

2 months ago

Unsportsmanlike conduct is a crazy thing to say considering what Army’s done when they host the star meet (crank visiting locker room temp to 90+, make Navy walk from off base, make Navy swim in the dungeon pool for warmup when they agreed on a set time for use) I could go on and on…

Reply to  NMSD Alum
2 months ago

Lol that locker room is always 90+ degrees. Make Navy (who can get a bus and has access to any military base)???.

Sounds like both sides are reading too much into some factors. Side effect of intense competition.

Reply to  Andrew
2 months ago

Yeah it’s not that deep honestly hahaha. At the end of the day, what both teams go on to do is much bigger than swimming. But in the meantime, congrats to Navy for tying Army’s win streak (1) 🤣

2 months ago

“…our team is often forced to deal with unsportsmanlike conduct from the other side.” Interesting.

2 months ago

It is always funny to see Coach Nigro fail to recognize his own short comings like he did at Patriots this past year. Always comes back to how ‘the other team did this and the other team did that’, rather than taking ownership and admitting the better team won that day. “This rivalry is intense and our team is often forced to deal with unsportsmanlike conduct from the other side”… not sure what he meant by that but the results will always speak for themself. Go NAVY!

Reply to  Navy18
2 months ago

From my experience with the team/meet, I believe he was referring to the navy cadets stealing items from the Army bench during the competition when the teams should be able to focus on the meet.

2 months ago

Didn’t expect “unsportsmanlike behavior” shade in the coaching comments for this meet.

About Riley Overend

Riley is an associate editor interested in the stories taking place outside of the pool just as much as the drama between the lane lines. A 2019 graduate of Boston College, he arrived at SwimSwam in April of 2022 after three years as a sports reporter and sports editor at newspapers …

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