Feb. 20, 2014
ANNAPOLIS, Md. -- The Navy swimming and diving teams each remain in first place following the conclusion of Thursday's second day of competition at the Patriot League Championship being held in Lejeune Hall in Annapolis.
Day two of the meet began with the Navy women in first place by just four points (108-104) over second-place Boston University, while the Navy men's team held a 14-point cushion over second-place Boston U., and Army. By the end of the night, the Mids had a total score of 260 points to lead the women's standings by 49 points over Boston U. and 57 points over third-place Bucknell, and the Navy men had accrued 356.5 points to jump in front of second-place Army by 149.5 points.
"It was a good day," said Navy women's swimming head coach John Morrison. "We knew coming in it was going to be one of our hardest days to score. We had only 13 people competing today, but we were able to get most of them back into finals, and those who did swim tonight actually moved up within the finals from their times this morning. We were pleased not only with the morning session -- we needed to be a little more relaxed in the morning and hopefully we will be tomorrow -- but they really fought hard as a team tonight. We are pleased with where we stand as a team, but it still is a very close meet so we are taking it one session at a time."
"You never know when you start the day at a championship when you have so many swims," said Navy men's coach Bill Roberts. "You always hope for 100 percent in the morning and 100 percent at night, but I've been doing this long enough that you know how difficult it is to get best times both in the morning and at night. That said, I am just really overwhelmed with how our guys raced. This morning, they swam smart with how they raced and made adjustments, then came back tonight knowing what they were going to do and executed it about as well as I have seen this team perform all season."
Even with the addition of Boston U. and Loyola to the league this year, the meet remained with points being award to only the top-16 swimmers from the morning trial heats. That means there are more competitors battling for the same number of berths in the evening scoring sessions.
"If you take a step back," said Roberts, "it is awesome. To have two new teams here has certainly raised the level of competitiveness, which is good for everyone no matter your position. It changes the morning. You have 10 teams and 10 lanes racing in the trial heats (only eight lanes are used at night). It is completely different. Last year at Bucknell, you were swimming in a heat of eight and there were only eight teams. You know if you finish second in one of the circle heats (higher seed time swimmers), you are almost guaranteed a spot in the finals or if you are third you are on the bubble. Here, there are 30 swimmers in those circle heats so you really can't mess around."
The evening opened with the 500 freestyle finals. This was an event that had caused some concern from Morrison, and the Mids placed just one swimmer in the championship final. Rachael Dudley (So., Hoschton, Ga.) would place fifth in the race with her time of 4:51.92, while Boston's Stephanie Nasson won the title with a time of 4:47.42.
The men's edition of the race not only saw Mids claim the top-four spots in the championship final, but also event-winner Tom Duvall (So., Durham, N.H.) setting a slew of records with his winning time of 4:15.86. That effort broke his own Navy, pool and league record time of 4:17.27, as well as the meet record of 4:18.56 set by Erik Hunter in 2009. Additionally, that clocking just missed the NCAA `A' cut qualifying time of 4:15.29 and was well under the `B' cut standard of 4:22.99.
"Tom just hit a home run today," said Roberts. "He knew what he wanted to do this morning, and he came back at night very confident in what he needed to do. We all have prepared real well for this type of swim tonight with pacing and tempo and he executed tremendously tonight."
Duvall was followed by teammates Alex Nickell (So., Loveland, Colo.) in second place (4:22.59), Riley Mita (Jr., Stevenson Ranch, Calif.) in third (4:22.88) and Noah Martin (So., Phoenix, Ariz.) in fourth (4:25.81).
Navy's women climbed right back into the thick of the race with its collective performance in the 200 individual medley. Anna Brooks (Fr., Kansasville, Wis.) posted an NCAA `B' cut qualifying time (2:02.59) -- and the No. 5 time in school history -- of 2:01.12 to win the race by one full second over Bucknell's Amber McDonnell. Furthering aiding Navy's cause was Charlotte Meyer (Fr., Bethesda, Md.) placing fourth (2:03.26) and Ellen Bradford (So., Knoxville, Tenn.) finishing in fifth place (2:03.89).
The Navy men also placed a trio of swimmers in the championship final of the 200 IM. Bucknell's Mike Nicholson held off a hard-charging Conor Campbell (Sr., Manassas, Va.) for the victory by six-hundredths of a second. Nicholson posted a time of 1:48.16 to edge Campbell's clocking of 1:48.22. Both times were under the NCAA `B' cut standard (1:49.04). Campbell was joined in the final by teammates Morgan De Jong (Fr., Winchester, Va.) in fifth place (1:50.85) and Ben Grove (Sr., Winchester, Va.) in eighth place (1:51.82).
Key times were posted by the Navy women's team in the consolation final of the 50 freestyle event. Jessi Ford (Fr., Madison, Wis.) won the B final in a time of 23.71, with teammate Brianna Bilunas (Jr., Omaha, Neb.) literally finishing just after her with a clocking of 23.72. That gave the Mids an additional 16 points in the event, which only aided the third-place showing (23.19) by Maddi Thompson (So., Jersey Shore, Pa.) and the seventh-place finish (23.58) by Olivia Morrell (Fr., Albuquerque, N.M.) in the championship final.
"It is a tribute to the women on the team," said Morrison of bouncing back with strong events after not scoring well in the 500 free. "We knew going into the meet we had some difficulties ahead of us in the 500 free. Boston and Bucknell brought some great distance swimmers into the meet, so we knew we were going to be challenged. It was nice to see we were in position to follow up the 500 free with some great swims in the IM and the 50 free.
"Anna winning the 200 IM really set us up well for both races tonight in the 50 free and got them excited to go one-two in the consolation and then have Maddi and Olivia swim well in the championship final."
A key to Navy's success after three sessions and two days of the meet has been the performance of the youth on the women's team. Wednesday night, Navy's two relay teams were comprised of six freshmen, one sophomore and one senior. Navy's championship finalists Thursday consisted of three freshmen, three sophomores and one junior.
"Our freshmen have been a very big part of our program," said Morrison. "They always are. It is a lot of energy that they bring to the team. Certainly in a meet like this, in the first multi-day collegiate championship meet of their careers, when things are happening fast it becomes a little intimidating, but they have responded well. We are still learning and still growing. As long as we take it one session at a time, our freshmen will continue to learn and grow the next two days."
Another record-setting effort was put together by Navy's Dain Bomberger (Jr., Lititz, Pa.) in the championship final of the men's 50 free. His time of 19.73 not only gave him a comfortable margin of victory over second-place finisher Jamal Willis of Lehigh (20.22), it also broke the oldest current Navy, Lejeune Hall, Patriot League and Patriot League Championship Meet record, which was a 19.74 set by Noah White 10 years ago.
"Expectations going in were for Dain to get the record," said Roberts. "He was so close to it in December, he had it in him. What he had to do he did, which was be first to the 25 (yard turn) and then come back real strong. It looked like a school record swim. I was fortunately here for Noah's 10 years ago, and it was a really well executed swim. I couldn't think of a more deserving person and couldn't be happier for Dain."
Not to be lost in Bomberger's new standard was Dan Bowden (Jr., Charlotte, N.C.) tying for third place (20.34) and Hugh Davison (Sr., Towson, Md.) placing sixth (20.51).
The lone diving event contested on the day was a big lift to the Navy effort as Mids placed first, third, fourth and sixth in the championship final of the men's one-meter springboard event. Winning the championship final was Wil Mayo (Sr., the Woodlands, Texas) with his score of 325.40. Mayo bettered the second-place score of 306.90 that was posted by Army's Zachary Woods. Ben Freedman (Sr., Kennewick, Wash.) followed in third place (297.15), D.J. Principato (Sr., Easton, Pa.) came in fourth place (276.40) and Frank Love (So., Atlanta, Ga.) placed sixth (254.20).
"Wil got in the right mindset tonight," said Navy diving coach Rich MacDonald. "He is a great competitor who saw an opportunity to take first place and took advantage of it."
Though he did not advance to the championship final, Navy's Joe Esposito (Jr., Langhorne, Pa.) earned nine points for being the top diver in the preliminary round of diving who failed to crack the top-eight spots.
"It was an exciting event," said MacDonald. "The guys were really controlled, which I think helped them. They really stepped up."
"I really enjoyed seeing all six divers compete today," said Roberts. "It was great for the program, Rich and all six of those guys. They did real well this afternoon in the prelims. It was very competitive. If you were following it you noticed there was a lot of movement from round to round and not a lot of certainty. Wil really gave a preview on his last couple of dives this afternoon as to what was coming tonight. He was electric on his last few dives. And then tonight he stepped up even more so. It was awesome to see four guys up in finals and two others score points. Rich and the divers are working real well together."
The night concluded with the 200 freestyle relay events. Navy had swept the four relay races that were held Wednesday night in an abbreviated session, but would split the two races held Thursday. Army's women's team posted a time of 1:32.41 to edge Navy by nine hundredths of a second (1:32.52), while the Navy men touched the wall in a time of 1:19.54 to win the final by 1.43 seconds over second-place Boston U. (1:20.97).
The championship runs through Saturday in Lejeune Hall. Trials heats for swimming begin both days at 10:30 a.m., diving trials follow at 1 p.m. and the nightly session of finals starts at 6 p.m.
1. 260 - Navy
2. 211 - Boston U.
3. 203 - Bucknell
4. 192 - Army
5. 137 - Colgate
6. 116 - Lehigh
7. 99 - Loyola
8. 69 - American
9. 66 - Lafayette
10. 46 - Holy Cross
1. 356.5 - Navy
2. 207 - Boston U.
3. 203 - Army
4. 174 - Bucknell
5. 148 - Lehigh
6. 83.5 - Loyola
7. 78 - Lafayette
8. 69 - American
9. 47 - Holy Cross
10. 44 - Colgate