Thanks to Carly Rae Tanner for sharing the above featured image with us; we’ll have a full vault from her this week. Follow her on Twitter at @CarlyRae_Tanner.
Interview with William & Mary coach Matt Crispino courtesy William & Mary Athletics.
The 2014 Men’s CAA Championships came down to the meet’s final race to determine who the champions would be. And this wasn’t “it came down to the final relay” in the sense of ‘just don’t blow it on this relay.’ It came down to the final race in the sense of 12-time defending champions UNC-Wilmington having a 2.5-point lead over William & Mary, but William & Mary having the top seed (by more than two seconds) and the best sprinter in the conference, Billy Russell.
The streak, however, for the Seahawks would live on, as they swam a 2:56.69 to not only win the relay, but to break the CAA Record with the team of Gabe Thran, Adam Salzman, Alex Labonge, and Joe Gallene. William & Mary took 2nd in 2:58.52 in that last relay (with a 43.77 anchor from Russell), and Drexel was 3rd in 2:59.55.
Final men’s team standings
1. UNC-Wilmington 729.5
2. William & Mary – 721.5
3. Towson – 551.5
4. Delaware – 440
5. Drexel – 442
6. College of Charleston – 335.5
UNC Wilmington’s task of holding onto their streak will becoming even more difficult next season, as William & Mary took both coach of the year honors (Matt Crispino), Swimmer of the Championships honors (Andrew Strait), 12 event titles, and won’t graduate much besides Strait – their 400 free relay was two sophomores, a freshman, and a junior.
But the Seahawks still were admirable in their win – and this will be a very special trophy on their mantles. After almost being cut as a program last summer, then saving themselves, then losing a lot of huge-scoring swimmers to transfers as a result of the uncertainty, they were still able to fight for this win. That will be the sort of lesson and memory that the UNCW coaching staff and swimmers will be able to use and remember for the rest of their lives.
Men’s 1650 Free – TIMED FINALS
Towson’s famous women’s distance group, which for so long has had so much success on the women’s side, is now starting to seep over to the men’s program as well. Junior Matt Lowe gave the male Tigers their first-ever CAA event title in the 1650 free, swimming a 15:22.20.
About midway through this race, he pulled away from Delaware freshman Cory Camp (15:29.29) and teammate Jon Burr (15:33.56) and was largely unchallenged by the time he came to the finish for a seven-second win. Towson and Delaware combined for the top five spots in that race, as the two meet leaders tend more towards sprint and stroke races.
Men’s 200 Backstroke – FINALS
William & Mary stretched out a small early lead on Saturday thanks to a win from sophomore Will Manion in the 200 backstroke: part of three swimmers in the A-final for the Tribe.
He swam a 1:44.68, which nearly broke the conference record, with a big front-half. UNCW took 2nd and 3rd, with juniors Eric Conrad (1:45.08) and Valtteri Halonen (1:45.38) also winding up on the podium, and William & Mary’s Justin Barden was 4th in 1:46.90.
Men’s 100 Freestyle – FINALS
William & Mary took their second-straight event win, as sophomore Billy Russell completed his sprint sweep with a 44.16 in the men’s 100 free. UNCW’s Gabe Thran took 2nd in 44.41, and College of Charleston’s Alex Wood was 3rd in 44.75.
This time, though, the celebration of the win was perhaps a bit more short-lived. That’s because UNCW had five swimmers in the A-final, which regained them a small lead at the end of the event.
Men’s 200 Breaststroke – FINALS
The men’s 200 breaststroke was yet another win for William & Mary’s men, and yet another lead-change in this meet. As mentioned above, senior Andrew Strait won in 1:58.46, taking his second-straight conference title, and beating-out UNCW senior Michael Baric. William & Mary’s Jeremia O’Donnell was 3rd in 1:59.96, and they had total four out of the top six finishers as they took a 13-point lead (they were approximately +30 in the event).
Men’s 200 Fly – FINALS
The Towson men put a final nail into their 3rd-place team finish with a 1:46.14 in the 200 fly from sophomore Matt McKenney. That broke both the Championships and Conference Records by eight-tenths of a second.
It was also a three-second improvement (between prelims and finals) off of his previous best time, set at least year’s meet, and in total he’s now dropped five-and-a-half seconds in two years at Towson in this event. If his improvements continue, he’s got the potential to be an NCAA Qualifier.
Drexel’s Kyle Lukens was also close to the old record as well taking 2nd in 1:46.86, and Pablo Ortiz was 3rd in 1:48.69.
William & Mary had the top time among the two meet leaders as Ryan Natal placed 4th in 1:48.96, and the Tribe stretched their lead even further, to 42 points.
Men’s 3-meter diving – FINALS
With just two events to go, it would seem as though a 42-point lead would be safe, but William & Mary knew the true score. While the Tribe didn’t enter any divers in the meet, UNCW had three of the nine who competed in the 3-meter, including impressive freshmen Allen Crosby (3rd) and Nathan Lane (4th).
The top two in that event where Towson’s Alex Cohen and Drexel’s David Sanchez, put three divers in the consolation final meant that UNCW pulled within a couple of points headed into the final race, and, well, we spoiled that surprise and gave away the ending already.
Had William & Mary entered any divers, who legally completed both springboard competitions, they would have won this meet, but there’s some internal decision-making they’ll have to make there in the off-season (they currently have no diving program).
The Towson Tigers didn’t leave quite as much suspense on the women’s side as UNCW did on the men’s side, as they roared their way to their second-straight CAA title, and 6th in 7 years.
The teams behind them were impressive as well; James Madison had a very successful first season under new head coach Richard Long, and grabbed their fourth-straight top two finish.
But the Towson women, despite some glaring weakness in the sprint events, finished off the meet with their overwhelming depth in the distance races for the title.
Final men’s team standings
1. Towson – 858
2. James Madison – 653
3. William & Mary – 462
4. UNC-Wilmington – 408.5
5. Delaware – 329
6. Northeastern – 325.5
7. College of Charleston – 269
8. Drexel – 189
Women’s 1650 Free – TIMED FINALS
This was the best incarnation of that overwhelming depth for Towson. They had the top six finishers in the women’s 1650 free, led by a 16:11.55 from senior Kaitlin Burke and a 16:17.41 from senior Cassie Sorna. That created a 95-point scoring run before William & Mary sophomore Hannah Vester clocked in 7th to stop the domination with a 16:51.82.
This 1650 free has been a constant throughout Towson’s impressive seven-year run. They won their first 1650 CAA title in 2008, the next season won their first team title, and haven’t lost the 1650 since. That makes this their 8th-straight event win, and Burke’s third-straight.
Women’s 100 Free – FINALS
William & Mary has a very deep sprint group that they hope in the long-run will counteract Towson’s distance group. Freshman Jaimie Miller will be the long-term foundation of that group, as she took her first career individual CAA title with a 50.14. In the process, she topped her teammate (and 50 free champion) Megan Howard, who was second in 50.19.
Delaware’s Dominique Montoya was 3rd in 50.28, and William & Mary altogether had three swimmers in the A-final.
Towson, meanwhile, had just one scorer: Amanda Barber, who was a 50.92 for 11th place.
Women’s 200 Breast – FINALS
But as much as they struggle in the sprint events, Towson is just as strong, and then some, in the distance events. Sophomore Jenna van Camp led three Tigers in the A-final with a 2:11.78 win in the 200 breaststroke.
James Madison’s Shannon Dubay took 2nd in 2:12.75, and UNCW’s Jenson Engen took 3rd in 2:12.96.
Women’s 200 Fly – FINALS
The Towson women made it three wins in four events, with a 1-2-3 finish in the 200 fly. That was led by a 1:56.36 from senior Melanie Rowland, which is a new Championship (but not conference) Record in the event.
Her teammates Kendall Towe (1:59.54) and Victoria Oslund (1:59.55) took 2nd and 3rd, respectively.
William & Mary’s Jessie Ustjanauskas took 4th in 2:01.83 to break the Towson run.
Women’s 400 Free Relay – FINALS
The women of James Madison and William & Mary fought it out for the title in the 400 free relay, but at the end of the race, James Madison had one more 49-second leg for their anchor, and William & Mary didn’t and that gave them the win in 3:20.65 – also a new Conference Record.
Kelsey Holmgaard, Carli Molano, Shannon Dubay, and Susanne Gingher combined for the win, with the two last legs going 49.82 and 49.63, respectively.
William & Mary took 2nd in 3:21.03, with Megan Howard splitting 49.20 on their second leg, which at the time gave them a sizable lead.
Towson was 3rd in 3:22.39, which included a 50.09 from the distance swimmer Burke on the lead-off – a great result for a swimmer who specializes in the 200, 500 and the mile.
Full meet results available here.