If you thought ten was the end for the Keene State College women’s swim and dive team, guess again.
For the eleventh year in a row, the Owls took home the Little East Conference (LEC) championship on Saturday, February 4.
The team racked up 557 points, the sixth highest total by a champion in the history of the LEC championship meet. The Owls were led by dominant performances all around and a record-breaking day from junior captain Hope Walsh.
Walsh said that the eleventh straight championship was just as exciting as any of the others.
“It’s a huge accomplishment. Really it’s kind of ridiculous that we’ve held this for eleven years straight,” Walsh said.
When asked how it felt to finish her senior year as a winner, senior captain Gabrielle Brzozowski said, “I started on the top, I wanted to go out on top.“
Brzozowski was spreading the praise all around, giving credit to her teammates for their work ethic and energy going into the meet.
“The girls really stepped up their game and proved to the other teams that we’re number one,” Brzozowski said.
Head Coach Chris Woolridge said he wasn’t surprised his team came away with the victory.
“I think the way the program’s been built, that we’re always going to have a good chance to win that meet,” Woolridge said. Woolridge also added that the entire team put in the effort required, including first-year’s.
“We had a couple of [first-year’s] step up and win events, which was huge. They had a fair amount of pressure on them, they weren’t seeded first and for them to come through and take those events is really good,” Woolridge said. Among the first-years who won events were Olivia Pechulis and Sydney McGough.
Walsh had a record-breaking performance at the championship meet, shattering three LEC records as well as one KSC record.
“I wasn’t that nervous, surprisingly, I’ve been to LEC’s before so I knew what to expect.” Walsh said. “My whole team was there supporting me and the coaches were freaking out…I felt on top of the world.”
Brzozowski expressed her amazement of Walsh’s performance, saying “she’s a monster. That’s what she is.”
Woolridge added how essential it was for Walsh to perform the way she did.
“Hope did unbelievable and she’s been killing it and working her butt off, so I wasn’t surprised to see it, but I was very happy to see it come together like that, because that doesn’t always happen,” Woolridge said.
When asked about the team’s future, Brzozowski expressed her confidence in the program.
“Everybody’s individual preference for how they stay in shape in the offseason is different,” Brzozowski said, “but once you get back in that pool in August, my expectations are you get in there, you work hard and you swim like Keene State does.”
Walsh also added that, with one year left, she’s anticipating another successful year for her team.
“I know that the twelfth is going to go just as well,” Walsh said, adding that she has no doubt in her mind that the Owls will get the twelfth championship.
Both Walsh and Brzozowski agreed that the incoming swimmers will play a big role in the team’s future success. Walsh said that the incoming swimmers are, “going to learn quickly what this team does and how we work and that we expect to be the best.”
Woolridge also said that it’s a little early to tell, but that he thinks the team has, “definite potential to pull in a very good class this year.”
Brzozowski said that the pressure will be growing as the years go on.
“Next year, there will be pressure. I think as you get higher up (winning more consecutive championships), the pressure’s actually going to build, because people are going to be like, ‘When do you fall?’ Hopefully never,” Brzozowski said.
Brzozowski said that this year starts a whole new trend for the team and that, moving forward, she’s hopeful that the dominance will continue.
“Coming into the eleventh year, we’re starting the trek to 20…and we had to go in with that mindset that we’re now paving the way to create another decade of this dominance over the LEC because we don’t plan on stopping,” Brzozowski said.
Crae Messer can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org