By Jessica Ganga
It was an emotional night filled with celebration and good-byes for the College’s men’s and women’s swimming teams as the two squads captured New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) titles against Rowan University on Friday, Jan. 29. The seniors on both teams swam their last meet at the College, making the night bittersweet, but the wins for both the men and women made the meet an even more memorable one.
“I am so proud of this team,” said Jennifer Harnett, the head coach for the women’s team. “They work so hard and have such amazing team spirit that it is great to see them keep checking off the goals they have set for themselves this year. It let them realize that all their sacrifices are worth it.”
The hard work was evident across the board, as both teams had great performances in the water.
The men dominated Rowan by defeating their opponents, 162-136.
Senior James Shangle commanded the water, taking first in three events. In the 100-yard breaststroke, he swam for a time of 57.19, beating his Rowan opponent by just one second. Shangle beat his opponent again by a second in the 200-yard breaststroke, touching the wall at 2:06.54. The two were neck-in-neck, but it was Shangle that held out and got the top spot. In the 200-yard IM, Shangle once again beat his opponent, this time with a two-second difference, clocking in a time of 1:57.49.
Shangle also helped the Lions win the 200-yard medley relay, swimming alongside classmate Joseph Dunn, junior Ryan Gajdzisz and freshman Alex Skoog. The quartet was able to clock in a time of 1:32.65.
The young swimmer, Skoog, had great races in the water, winning both the 100- and 200-yard backstroke events with times of 52.59 and 1:54.36, respectively.
In the 200-yard freestyle, the Lions went one, two and three, in what was another close and exciting meet. Junior Scott Vitabile touched the wall with a time of 1:42.80, with junior Jason Ivins and sophomore Phil Binaco following close behind with times of 1:44.32 and 1:44.56, respectively.
Men’s head coach Brian Bishop was proud of how his team swam and that they took home their fourth-straight NJAC title, eighth overall, but said it was important to note how they accomplished the win.
“While winning the NJAC title is a great accomplishment, the manner in which the team won it is more important,” Bishop said. “This squad has had somewhat of a difficult time finding its identity this season and the selfless, team-first approach that everyone took in preparation for this meet will pay dividends at the Conference and NCAA meets.”
The women’s team took home their eighth-straight NJAC title, having another successful night in the water, defeating Rowan, 187-107.
Senior Lauren Rothstein had an impressive final home meet, having top finishes in the 200-yard freestyle and 400-yard freestyle relay. In the close 200-yard freestyle, she clocked in a time of 2:01.28, one second before her Rowan competitor. Alongside teammates junior Brenna Strollo and sophomores Emily Rothstein and Allison Huber, the quartet got an impressive time of 3:42.20 in the always-exciting relay. Strollo had a great night as well, as she took home top finishes in the 100- and 200-yard backstroke events with times of 1:00.55 and 2:10.73, respectively. In the 100-yard back, the Lions completed the sweep with sophomores Katie Kilfeather and Jill Galindo swimming for times of 1:03.56 and 1:03.83, respectively.
The team remained motivated the entire night, something Harnett said was due to their friendly NJAC rivalry with Rowan.
“In general, it is always easy to be motivated for a meet against Rowan,” Harnett said. “We have had such a fun rivalry with them from even when I swim here. The challenge this year was that we were ready to swim last weekend. Since we had to move the meet twice because of the snow, it changed some of training we were doing. We actually trained harder this week than last week to prepare for our upcoming taper.”
Both teams now look forward to the rest of the season, keeping their focus on upcoming meets that allow the team to continue their success while hoping to gain more.
“Our meet next weekend is our last NJAC meet against William Paterson as well as our final dual meet,” Harnett said. “Having already clinched the NJAC title takes some of the pressure off. It will be a great meet to focus on racing since they will be able to swim in some different events that they do not normally get a chance to swim during the year due to points that are needed in the main events. After that, it’s on to the MET Conference Championships!”