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Men's swimming wins first CAA championship

  • Swimming champs
    Swimming champs  The William & Mary men's swimming team won the 2015 Colonial Athletic Association Men's Swimming and Diving Championships for the team's first-ever conference title.  Tribe Athletics photo
  • Senior Day for men's basketball
    Senior Day for men's basketball  Prior to Saturday's game against Drexel, W&M honored its four-member senior class: manager Brian Gelston, Tyler Johnson, Tom Schalk and Marcus Thornton. Despite the loss to the Dragons, the Tribe still claimed the CAA regular-season championship.  Photo courtesy Tribe Athletics
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The William & Mary men's swimming team completed a journey 87 years in the making on Saturday night, winning the 2015 Colonial Athletic Association Men's Swimming and Diving Championships for the team's first-ever conference title. The Tribe piled up 784.5 points, the second-most in conference history, to win out over Towson (599) and defending champion UNCW (565.5).

In a vote of the league coaches, junior Jeremiah O'Donnell (Chapel Hill, Norther Carolina) was named the Most Outstanding Swimmer of the Championships, after sweeping his three individual events as well as swimming on the gold-medal 800 free relay. He broke conference records on that relay as well as in the 200 IM and the 400 IM, and came back on Saturday to complete the trifecta with a school record in the 200 breast. This is the third year in a row that a Tribe swimmer has claimed at least a share of the MVP award.

Also feted by their peers was head coach Matt Crispino '02 and his staff; assistant coaches Chris Carter and Joshua Huger, student assistant Christa Ann Saunders, strength and conditioning coach Josh Miller, and athletic trainer Racquel Cabrera. This is the second year in a row that Crispino was selected as the CAA Men's Swimming Coach of the Year.

1650 Free
The freshman class got their teammates started in the 1650 free, where Tommy Kealy (Wilton, Connecticut) placed 11th overall in his first-ever mile.  Kealy's time was 15:44.30, the fourth-fastest ever in school history, and he now ranks third all-time among athletes.  He also timed 9:26.76 in the 1,000 free during the mile, which was also the fourth-fastest single time and ranks him third in that event too.  Classmate Conrad Zamparello (Midlothian, Virginia) was right behind him, in 15:44.51 for 12th place, and his performances in both the mile and the 1,000 free (he swam 9:28.16) are the sixth-fastest all time at W&M.

200 Back
Next up was the 200 back, where junior Will Manion (Haddonfield, New Jersey) successfully defended his title  in a conference-record time of 1:44.13.  That was Manion's fourth title of the week, and his program-record tying 10th career gold-medal. Clasmmate Justin Barden (Gordonsville, Virginia) was right behind him in a lifetime-best 1:44.51, also well below the previous school record, and Alex Montes de Oca (Orange, Virginia) captured seventh in 1:48.48. Fellow sophomore Alex Henderson (Hopewell, Virginia) was eighth, stopping the clock in 1:49.06.

100 Free
W&M added another silver medal in the 100 free, thanks to Billy Russell (Newport News, Virginia) who swam a season-best 44.50.  That was the third-fastest race ever for W&M. Senior Taegan Clarke (Chappaqua, New York) was fifth in 45.35 seconds, and sophomore Risten Clarke (Chappaqua, New York) timed 45.39 seconds for sixth overall. 

200 Breast
The Tribe had six men qualified for the 200 breast, racking up big points.  O'Donnell completed his sweep with a school-record 1:57.39, an NCAA qualifying time that broke the record set last season. Josh Zimmt (Barrington, Rhode Island), who's record O'Donnell broke, made a charge over the last 50 and came up with a second-place finish and NCAA qualifying time of 1:58.48. That was the fifth-fastest race ever for W&M. Also in the championship finals, Andrew Nyce (Vienna, Va.) was seventh in 2:03.12, and senior Matt Goetz (Islip, New York) touched the wall in 2:05.35 for eighth place. In the consolation finals, freshman Brett Barden (Henrico, Virginia) swam 2:05.87 and senior Chris Dong (Chapel Hill, North Carolina) went 2:07.07, good for 13th and 14th, respectively.

200 Fly
Freshman Evan Baker (Chantilly, Virginia) swam another strong course in the 200 fly, finishing second overall in an NCAA-qualifying 1:46.80 that was the third-fastest race ever in school history. Sophomore Sean Higgins (Wilton, Connecticut) swam another lifetime-best to improve to fifth overall in 1:48.54, and junior Ryan Natal (Great Falls, Virginia) was seventh in 1:48.99. Higgins' performance was the eighth-fastest ever, while Natal's was 12th all-time at W&M. Freshman Tommy Kealy finished things off, placing eighth in 1:49.21 (15th in school history) in his second final of the night.

400 Free Relay
The Tribe put the exlamation point on the victory in the 400 free relay, swimming a school-record time and winning for the first time since 1999.  Manion led-off with a lifetime-best 44.58 seconds, the fourth-fastest single race in school history, before giving way to Russell. Russell took over the baton in second place, but cruised to a 44.18 split and gained the lead that W&M would never relinquish. Risten Clarke was next up and responded with a punishing 44.11 split to extend the Tribe's lead, and he passed the stick to older brother Taegan with a sizeable advantage. The senior dropped a team-best 44.07 on the anchor, and brought W&M home in 2:56.94 to shatter the school record set just last year. It was the fifth win of the week for Manion, who became the first CAA swimmer since 2005-06 to win five or more titles in consecutive years, and Manion also became W&M's all-time winningest conference titlist with 11, passing the total of 10 set by Andrew Strait '14.

2015 Colonial Athletic Association Men's Swimming and Diving Championships
Final Team Scores
1. William and Mary 784.5
2. Towson 599
3. UNCW 565.5
4. Drexel 464
5. Delaware 461
6. College of Charleston 390