The Keene State swim and dive team wrapped up this season with the men’s team placing second and women’s team placing third at the New England Intercollegiate Swim and Dive Association (NEISDA) championship meet.
For the second year in a row, junior George Colarullo received the Men’s Diver of the Meet award. Senior Sophie Hayes, another star member of the team, also received the Senior High Point Swimmer award.
The Men’s Diver of the Meet honor is awarded to the top performing male diver, while the Senior High Point Swimmer honor goes to the female and male swimmer who has received the highest cumulative number of points throughout their four years of performing at NEISDAs.
This is not only Colarullo’s second year receiving the award but also his second year winning both the 3-meter and 1-meter dive. He also got a career high on the 1-meter dive this year with a score of 410.65 points.
Despite all of these accomplishments, Colarullo will not be partaking in the swim and dive regionals meet, missing the cut by just 15 points.
“I’m okay with that,” said Colarullo. “Finishing this past year undefeated in the Little East Conference competition and undefeated in the NEISDA competition for two years straight, I really can’t complain.”
But Colarullo isn’t done yet. He’s already thinking about next season and setting himself up for some big goals.
“The last person to do a three-peat [at NEISDAs] was in the late 2000s in diving, so [I’m] trying to be the next person to do that on both boards,” explained Colarullo.
There is always some pressure on the divers, like Colarullo, and swimmers who are going into the meet as defending champions.
Colarullo is aware of the pressure to keep his title. He said his mentality going into a meet as a defending champion is that he has a target on his back.
“When it comes to the judging, because diving is a judged sport, it’s not just [that] the best time wins; it’s who the judges think is the best performer wins the event,” explained Colarullo. “I have to hold myself to a higher standard than everybody else and perform my dives even better, in case the judges don’t seem to think my dives are better than someone else’s. So I have to perform better than them, in my mind, to prove to them that I dive better than everyone else.”
Hayes has another way of handling the pressure.
As the defending champion in the 100-meter and 200-meter butterfly, she had the weight of her titles to worry about. Hayes said the only way to prepare for it going into a meet is to focus on the mental part of it all.
“I know I can physically do my events,” explained Hayes. “You can’t go into it thinking you’re going to win… I just feel like I have to do the best I can do. You have to race your own race. What a lot of people do is worry about other people’s races. I’m like, ‘No, it’s your race, you’re going to do what you’re going to do and you should never let anyone influence that,’” said Hayes.
“I won the 2-fly all four years so I was really nervous for that event this year… I know some girls definitely weren’t happy I won it, but, you know, you can’t let what other people say get you down because if I did I would’ve choked on that race,” said Hayes. She recognizes that when you’re on the top, you can’t let your guard down. But at the same time, she tries to focus on the positives and fun aspects of her sport. Hayes said she really wants other people to succeed.
“I have a great group of girls from Roger Williams [University] and we all swim fly together, and they’re all sad to see me go,” explained Hayes. “It’s about healthy competition and that’s what I kind of tried to build with the flyers in our little fly community, because I wanted us to have a good time while racing.”
For Hayes, the competitive nature of swimming and racing is what she loves most about the sport and says she will miss most when she graduates.
“[Swimming] has shaped me, and everyone I have met has shaped me, to who I am today and I can’t be more grateful that I have been a part of a sport that has taught me all these life lessons,” said Hayes. “And even though there are plenty of ups and downs with every sport, sometimes you do have those bad days… I never gave up. And I think that’s the biggest thing; even when it gets hard you’ve got to keep going.”
Hayes recalled asking her coach what the Senior High Point Award was during her first-year on the team. After being told what the honor meant, she decided then and there that she wanted it.
“At the end of the day, no one can say I didn’t deserve it because it’s your points from all four years, and that’s crazy. I’m so happy I got the award and it kind of just shows that if you put in the hard work in you’ll achieve things, which is pretty cool,” said Hayes.
Head Coach of the swim and dive team Chris Woolridge was proud of the two athletes and all of their accomplishments.
“I think for the team, to have people who are operating on that level is obviously a huge boost competitively, but also it’s sort of an example to follow and for people to see, you know, what it looks like to be an athlete who’s at the top of our conference,” explained Woolridge.
Woolridge is aware of the pressure that is on the defending champion athletes, but made a point not to talk about it in a way that creates a false sense of pressure for them. He explained that while there are uncontrollable factors that go into each meet, as long as an athlete focuses on doing the best they can, works hard during the season and keeps a clear head during the meet, then hopefully it will come out the way they like it.
Something that every coach experiences is losing seniors at the end of the season. In Woolridge’s case, this year the swim and dive team will be losing twelve seniors, including Hayes.
“When the seniors leave, they put four years into this [sport], and it’s hard to imagine how it’s going to be the year after they’re gone because of how much influence they’ve had on the program. I think that’s especially true with this year’s seniors,” said Woolridge.
Even though it’s hard on the team, Woolridge recognizes that it helps make them a consistently strong team.
“Every year you’re going to graduate seniors and people behind them need to step up and fill those roles,” explained Woolridge. “That’s part of the process for having a team that’s strong year after year. There are people who are now going to get that opportunity to be in that position and compare them so they do a good job.”
Rachel Thurston can be contacted
Claire Boughton can be contacted