The University of Richmond Swim and Dive team won the Atlantic 10 championships for the fifteenth time in the last sixteen years in Geneva, Ohio, this year.
The win developed in part from the coaching at practice, head coach Matthew Barany said. Once the skills from practice become second nature, there is very little coaching to be done at the meet, Barany said.
The trend of coaching during practices throughout the year has proven to be successful by the team’s seventh consecutive A-10 win.
“We’ve had fifteen years of success and the takeaway from that [is] that the program has been built for long term success,” Barany said.
He said before the final meet that if the team could perform to the best of its ability, he knew it had a chance to win.
First-year Hannah Gouger, a backstroker, said the team focused on detail and it paid off. Gouger's times dropped significantly and she won two events, Barany said.
“I don’t ever have the expectation that we’re going to win,” Barany said.
The way the team prepared and arrived at the meet showed the appropriate amount of training, he said. After being disqualified in the 800-meter freestyle relay, the team was forced to reevaluate and respond correctly, Barany said. The disqualification was caused by second-year Morgan Soulia leaving the block too early.
“I think the race that we will all remember will be Morgan’s two IMs,” Barany said. An IM, or intermediate medley, is a race that combines all four strokes.
Soulia said that after the relay, everyone acted as if the team was in last place and that the swimmers still had work to do. It was an emotional race for Soulia. After losing her mom to cancer last April and disqualifying her team from the 800 relay, she decided she was going to swim to win the 200-meter IM race, she said. She raced for her mom, she said, and decided she was going to “swim her heart out.”
She swam well, and she won.
“I saw the one next to my name and it was tears,” Soulia said, “I was like sitting on the bulkhead and everyone like crowded around me... I am blessed to have the team that I have.”
There were parents, coaches and friends from other teams who were crying and congratulating her on the win, Soulia said. It was her first A-10 gold in the 200 IM.
Fourth-year Maggie Pope, a backstroker, said that training with Gouger pushed her to be the best swimmer that she could be.
Pope finished second behind Gouger in the 100-meter backstroke. Gouger also finished first in the 200-meter backstroke and Pope finished ninth.
Barany said that the training for the meet, as well as the whole team swimming their fastest times, contributed to their success.
“We stayed focused,” said Barany, “We pride ourselves on being good every session and as some teams start to get tired, we start to get better.”
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