By Andrea Garcia
After a two-week hiatus since the Rams’ senior day triumph over the UMass Minutemen, the men’s and women’s swimming and diving squads jumped back into a loaded racing schedule at the Atlantic 10 Championships. The four day competition was held at the Spire Center in Geneva, Ohio.
The first day of competition rounded out for the women with a third place standing out of 11 teams. The men held up in the middle of the pack, finishing in fifth place out of eight men’s teams.
Defending her territory on the diving board, junior Wendy Espina-Esquivel came up strong for a second place finish in the women’s 1 meter dive, posting a score of 271 points and earning Second Team All-Atlantic 10 honors. The women’s 200m medley relay of senior Morgan Fairclough, senior Megan Polaha, freshman Amelia Bullock and sophomore Tara Brunner raced to a season best of 1:42.79, finishing in 6th place. Placing one spot higher, the quartet of junior Erin McBride, Polaha, freshman Paulina Watson and senior Kalena Laurent also finished with a season best of 7:26.54 in the women’s 800m free relay finals.
The two men’s relay teams showed off their strength with two new school records in the 200m medley and 800m free events. In the 200m medley, senior Miguel Mattox, freshman Sean Finlay, senior Joe Mercurio and sophomore anchor Travis Monahan brought home fifth place in 1:29.67, smashing the 2014 school record of 1:31.14. The 800m free relay squad of junior Liam Semple, freshman Joe Vizza, junior Chris Vieira and Mattox fell just seconds short of the podium in fourth place. They clocked in at 6:40.14, besting the school record of 6:41.92 set in 2013.
The second day of the meet proved to be an even stronger day for the Rams, with three medals, four season bests and two new school records.
In the women’s 500m freestyle, Watson earned first place in the “B” final and ninth overall with a new season best of 4:55.61. Polaha was hoping to defend her 200m IM title from last year, but landed in fifth place in 2:01.35, a new season best for the senior. In the same event, senior Marie Feneron took the top spot in the “B” final with a finish of 2:02.65. Freshman Samantha McDonald posted a sixth place finish in the 50m freestyle with a season best of 23.53 seconds. To conclude the day, the team of Brunner, McDonald, Bullock and Mullen earned a bronze medal standing with a season best of 1:33.40 in the 200 free relay.
The men’s team did not disappoint. With a time of 4:26.02, Vizza also earned a bronze medal in the 500m freestyle event, demolishing the previous record of 4:26.27 set by Steve Shouldra last season. Mercurio had an emotional first place tie with George Mason’s Zepher Begnell in the 50m freestyle, with both swimmers clocking in at 20.26; thus breaking the 2012 Fordham record of 20.26. Adding another medal around his neck, Mercurio joined Monahan, Berry and Vizza to celebrate a third place finish in the 200m free relay. With a combined effort, this squad was able to break a 2012 school record with a time of 1:21.23.
Friday’s events added two broken school records and three NCAA “B” cuts to the Rams pile.
Megan Polaha showed up with a 3rd place time of 4:18.30 in the 400 IM, earning a new season best, a bronze medal and an NCAA “B” cut time. In the 100m fly, Bullock pulled a season best of 54.44, landing herself a silver medal and Second Team All Atlantic 10 accolades. Watson and Fairclough also posted season bests of 1:51.44 and 55.71 in the 200m freestyle and 100m backstroke events.
Freshman Greg Lombana added to the men’s point tally with a second place finish and Second Team All-Atlantic 10 standings in the 400 IM, with a time of 3:56.35. Following up his success of the previous night, Mercurio posted a season best and fifth place time of 48.72 in the 100m fly. Landing in second place in the 200m freestyle, Vizza broke his own school record for the third time this season and posted an NCAA “B” cut time of 1:37.75. The Rams added another “B” cut time to their collection from Finlay, who finished fifth in the 100m breaststroke in 55.30 seconds and broke the 2013 school record of 55.56.
A fourth and final day of racing closed out the conference championships for the Rams. The women landed in fourth place, one spot higher than last year. The men also finished fourth, marking their best finish since landing fourth in 2010.
Brunner and freshman Sammy McDonald topped the competition in the “B” final of the 100m freestyle, closing in at times of 51.10 and 51.44, respectively. In the 200m breaststroke, junior Nele Albers finished second in the “B” final, but overcame the 2010 school record of 2:18.33 with her time of 2:18.08. The Rams were well-represented on the podium from the 200m fly. For the third and final time of her career, Polaha dominated the lanes to win the event in 1:58.90, marking another NCAA “B” cut time and defending her First Team All-Atlantic 10 honor. Bullock followed Polaha closely into second place, with a time of 2:00.75. Closing out the conference meet for the women, the team of Brunner, McDonald, Bullock and Mullen finished fifth in the 400m freestyle relay with a time of 3:24.08
In the men’s 1650m freestyle, Semple raced for the first Atlantic 10 conference individual gold medal of his career and denoted an NCAA “B” cut time of 15:27.42. With a time of 1:47.87, Miguel Mattox won the “B” final of the 200m backstroke and shattered the long-standing 2001 school record of 1:48.99. Vizza found himself on the podium with a bronze medal in the 100 freestyle, also out touching a 2012 record, 44.89 to his 44.43 seconds. Finlay registered the last broken individual record for the week in the 200 breaststroke, breaking the 2014 of 2:02.17 with a time of 2:02.10. In the final event of the championship, the 400m freestyle relay, Monahan, Mercurio, Semple and Vizza teamed together to finish in sixth, denoting a time of 3:00.98, thus besting the 2009 school record of 3:00.98.
The Rams have now closed out their season schedule. Polaha, Bullock, Vizza, Finlay and Semple are the five Fordham swimmers who are in the lineup for the NCAA championships. However, there is one more order of business for the Rams – updating the Messmore Aquatic Center pool marquis to celebrate 13 new school records.