The William & Mary men's swimming team won its sixth consecutive Colonial Athletic Association championship on Saturday night, doing so in record-setting fashion in a week filled with individual event records. The William & Mary women's swimming team finished out the Colonial Athletic Association championship second overall.
The W&M's team scored 874.5 points, the fifth-most ever in conference history, to defeat the field of five teams. UNCW was second with 781 points, while Drexel finished third with 601 points, Towson fourth with 531.5 and Delaware was fifth with 314 points.
Among the records that the Tribe set while winning the conference title was the record for the most event championships won in a single year, with 14 gold medals in 18 swimming events. That tied the record set by American University in 2001. W&M swept all five relays for the third-straight year, and won all five of them with conference records. At the end of the meet, first-year head coach Nate Kellogg and his staff were named the CAA Men's Swimming Coaches of the Year. This is the first year since 1994 that a coach in his first year at the head of a conference team has led that team to the CAA championship.
Colin Wright '20 from Williamsburg, Virginia, was named the Most Outstanding Swimmer of the championship, after an exceptional week and an even more incredible career. Wright won all seven of his events for the second year in a row, becoming the first man in conference history to achieve that feat twice. He also became the first swimmer in league history, male or female, to win at least five titles all four years of his career. Wright's seven championships this week gave him 24 for his career, the most ever won by any swimmer in conference history, and his 15 relay championships are also the most ever won by any one swimmer. His career will most likely continue for another month, as he collected likely NCAA invitation times in both the 50 free and the 100 free, as well as another provisional time in the 200 free.
Starting the evening off was the 1,650 free, where Chris Balbo '20 of Short Hills, New Jersey capped off his career with his second win of the week and third gold medal of his career. Balbo kept the pace easy over the first third of the race, and then steadily kept ratcheting up the speed and the pressure as the laps increased, pulling away over the final 300 yards to win in 15:32.38. It was Balbo's first win in the 1,650 free, after making the podium each of his first three years, and the fifth year in a row that a W&M swimmer had won the event. Conor Sokolowsky '23 of Williamsburg finished ninth overall to add nine more team points, stopping the clock in 16:06.95.
W&M piled up more than 50 points in the 200 back. Lee Bradley '20 of Crestwood, Kentucky, was fourth overall in 1:48.25, and his classmate Colin Demers '20 of Virginia Beach, Virginia, was right behind him in 1:48.47 for sixth place. Jake Kealy '21 of Wilton, Connecticut, improved his spot from the morning prelims, and finished seventh in 1:50.64. In the consolation finals, sophomore Jack Galbraith '22 of Vienna, Virginia, was 10th overall in 1:50.90, while Noah Fields '23 of Williamsburg was 13th in 1:53.57 and his classmate Colby Mills '23 of Fredericksburg, Virginia, was 16th in 1:55.46.
In the 100 free, Wright picked up his sixth gold of the week and broke the CAA record for the most championships in his career, beating the mark of 22 originally set by JMU's Mark Gabriele '95. Wright swam the finals in 42.19 seconds, an NCAA provisional qualifier and the second-fastest race in school history to pick up the win. His classmate Jack Doherty '20 of Middletown, Connecticut, was second with a lifetime-best performance of 43.39 seconds, the seventh-fastest race ever and also an NCAA provisional qualifier. Sophomore Graham Hertweck of Greensboro, North Carolina, was eighth in 45.34 seconds, and junior Christopher Pfuhl of Charlotte, North Carolina, swam a lifetime-best 44.73 seconds for 10th overall. Pfuhl now ranks eighth in school history. Senior Ian Thompson of Alexandria, Virginia, rounded out the scorers in 13th overall, stopping the clock in 44.97 seconds.
Senior Ben Skopic of Marriottsville, Maryland, wrapped up his week with his third individual championship, and fourth overall, winning the 200 breast for the first time in his career. He swam a lifetime-best 1:58.79 for the gold, the eighth-fastest race in school history, and now ranks fourth all-time among Tribe athletes. Sophomore Ryan Babel of Westfield, New Jersey, was fourth in 2:01.60, while Flynn Crisci of Williamsburg was seventh in 2:02.15 and Kyle Demers of Virginia Beach swam 2:02.25 for eighth overall. In the consolation finals, Sokolowsky swam 2:05.44 for 13th overall in his second event of the session, and senior Ian Bidwell of Pelham, New York, wrapped up his career with a 15th-place 2:06.31.
Both of W&M's finalists in the 200 fly turned in collegiate-best times. Sophomore Steven Thalblum of Ashburn, Virginia, swam 1:48.58 for fourth place overall, and improved to sixth all-time at W&M. The freshman Fields, swimming his second event of the night, won the consolation finals for ninth overall with a time of 1:50.25. That lifted him up to 13th in school history among athletes.
400 Free Relay
With the team title already locked up, the Tribe's 400 free relay put the icing on the cake with another win, W&M's sixth in a row in the event. Wright led things off with another NCAA provisional qualifier, 42.44 seconds, the third-fastest time of the day and in school history, handing off to Pfuhl with a comfortable lead. He split 44.52, the second-fastest time in the field, and kept the lead for Doherty to work with on the third leg. Doherty split 43.45, the fastest in the third leg, and Thompson brought things home in 43.66 seconds, again the fastest leg among all anchors. Overall, W&M swam 2:54.07 to break the conference and school records that the Tribe had set last year.
For most of the team, the season is now complete, but Wright and possibly several others will begin preparing for the NCAA Championships, March 25-28 in Indianapolis, Indiana. Official selections will be announced on March 11, and while Wright is squarely in the selection envelope, W&M also has a couple relays that could go fast enough at a last-chance meet to earn a spot at the national championships.
2020 Colonial Athletic Association Men's Swimming & Diving Championships Final Standings
1. William & Mary 874.5
2. UNCW 781
3. Drexel 601
4. Towson 531.5
5. Delaware 314