“After a two-year absence, the Little East Conference women’s swim/dive championship plaque is returning to the Spaulding Gym trophy case.”
Who would’ve thought it would still be there, unmoved, 14 years later.
The quote above can be found in an article published by keeneowls.com on December 2, 2006, announcing the Keene State women’s swim and dive team’s return to the top after being runner-ups for the LEC championship for two seasons.
This achievement was recognized on April 16 when the team’s impressive winning streak put them in first place in the Keene State Athletic Department’s “Best of Keene State Athletics: A Decade of Defining Moments” competition.
The competition saw 16 “defining moments” throughout the past 10 years face off in a bracket. Each day friends, family, students and faculty would be given two achievements to vote on over social media. Whichever achievement received the most votes would move on to the next round.
“The idea of a bracket competition was conceived by Abe Osheyack, and his team, Ryan Hearn and Collin Quinn, took it and ran with it,” explained Keene State Athletic Director Phil Racicot in an email interview. “After brainstorming several ways to approach the concept it was decided to look back on the last decade of KSC athletics, considering the massive success [every team had] at some point during that decade.”
The defining moments included in the competition were as follows: Jannel Haggerty winning the pentathlon national championship; volleyball having eight 20-win seasons since 2010; men’s lacrosse winning 6 consecutive LEC championships; field hockey winning 6 consecutive LEC championships; women’s cross country having an NCAA qualifier in 2015; softball reaching the 2012 NCAA regional finals; women’s soccer having back-to-back LEC championship wins and making it to the NCAA second round in 2013; men’s basketball appearing in 4 NCAA tournaments in 5 years as well as appearing in Sweet 16 in 2016 and Elite 8 in 2017; men’s soccer winning the 2019 LEC championship; baseball having 2 NCAA appearances in 3 years; junior Benjamin Musese breaking the indoor triple jump school record four times and qualifying for the NCAA championship; men’s swimming and diving finishing ninth at the 2014 NCAA championship; men’s cross country winning 4 consecutive, as well as 5 out of 6, LEC championships; women’s basketball winning their first LEC championship in 2017; women’s lacrosse winning 4 LEC championships within 6 years; and the winning moment, which was the women’s swimming and diving team winning 14 consecutive LEC championships.
The voting began April 1 with the final round seeing the women’s swim and dive team face off against the men’s swim and dive team.
“In talking to my teammates, we did not know what to expect at the start of the competition,” explained rising senior and captain of the women’s swim and dive team Kim Theleen in an email interview. “At the start of each round, everyone was reminded to cast their votes and support both our men’s and women’s teams. When it came down to both teams being in the final, there were definitely some good-natured exchanges between the women and men.”
Theleen explained that winning a competition like this means a lot to a team and everyone on it.
“Our team feels very proud and honored to have been recognized,” said Theleen. “At the beginning of each season we are very well aware of what the team did the prior year and we have a common goal to want to continue to build on what the last team accomplished.”
Head coach of both the women’s and men’s swim and dive teams Christopher Woolridge shared similar thoughts with Theleen in his own email interview, as well as explaining that the win was a team effort.
“It was a moment of recognition that meant a lot to current and former members of the team,” said Woolridge. “Both teams have worked hard over this past decade to distinguish themselves in the LEC and at the regional and national levels. Getting both teams to the final bracket was our dream and goal, and it involved current and former swimmers supporting each other all the way. Once both teams made it, it was mission accomplished and hats off to whichever team won. We did actually joke online about having a tie and a swim off at an Alumni meet.”
Much like the “Best of Keene State Athletics” win, Woolridge said that all the LEC wins were also a team effort from the bus ride there to the days after the championship meet.
“I think the lesson from the LEC meet has always been, ‘the star of the team is the team,’” said Woolridge. “I remember individual athletes having great races, but the best memory is seeing how the women prepare before the meet on the bus. We have a tradition that involves upper class swimmers giving encouraging notes and gifts to newer members of the team. Part of it is to help ease any stress or pressure they may feel going into the meet. But what it really does is to help build unity, cohesion and commitment to a mission. These are all critical to a team if it is going to perform at the highest level possible. We also have a tradition where the team designs a kickboard after the meet and everyone on the team signs it to show they were a part of the team tradition that year. It’s really cool to look back at those and see 14 years worth of KSC swimmers who contributed to our streak.”
The final score for the competition saw the women’s swim and dive team receive 1,240 votes, while the men’s team received 869.
According to the keeneowls.com article announcing the winner, the cumulative votes in the final matchup were the highest of all the matchups before it. The competition in total had 10,709 votes cast from the start date of April 1 to the end date of April 15.
“These student-athletes and coaches work tremendously hard all year and it was exciting to see their efforts be rewarded with such great results,” said Racicot when asked about his own thoughts of the winning team and the competition as a whole. “With regard to winning the bracket challenge, I again congratulate [the women’s swim and dive team] for staying strong and staying connected during such challenging and uncertain times. The more we stay connected the greater our commitment will be to overcome the current obstacles and continue to do great things!”
Claire Boughton can be contacted