The Collegian
Monday, April 15, 2024

Blog: 2010 A-10 Swimming Championships

Editor's Note: The Collegian is posting updates from University of Richmond swimming coach Matt Barany, who is in Buffalo, N.Y., for the 2010 Atlantic 10 Swimming & Diving Championships, which begin Feb. 17 and end Feb. 20. Richmond looks to seize its ninth-consecutive A-10 crown.

Feb. 21, 2:00 a.m.

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- As the headline reads, "A record run is over." What it does not say it this:

We came to this meet with a roster of 16 when most schools filled the full roster of 18. We didn't have divers. On the first night, our relay was disqualified. Mathematically, we had chances to win the championship. Realistically, it would have taken a prayer.

We had a decision to make on Thursday morning — give up or start fighting. We started by taking risks. We followed our fearless leaders, Alex Helland and Katie Sieben. Thursday rolled into Friday and we slowly worked our way back into the championship race. Tonight, we reached the top again only to lose it in the final events. Along the way, Charlotte Brackett won three events (50, 100 and 200 free), including breaking the elusive 24 year-old school record in the 200 free. Lauren Hines was named Rookie of the Year for her performances in the 50 free, 100 back and 200 back. In the three relays following the DQ, we went three for three in the relays ... and the list goes on.

I know there isn't honor in getting second. I do find our effort, emotional investment, physical performance, support, care and love very honorable. We may not have won a championship tonight, but we won so much more this weekend. We reacted to challenges, and fear with valor. We were knocked down, cheered against and doubted. We stood up with Richmond across our chest, Spiders on our cap and made this a weekend none of us will every forget. There is beauty in battle and we were a part of it this weekend.

As their coach, I could not be a prouder man. I hold my breath each time they dive in for I cannot forecast their path. I try to be a guide, a piece of encouragement and a source of energy. I try to help them confront fear, doubt and pain with bravery. I work with them; I laugh with them; I cry with them. I can't imagine my life without these Richmond swimmers.

Please do not approach any of us with pity. We are not poor, tired or weak. Although we are second, our lives are full of richness. Approach us and ask us to share. ... This was a week I will never forget.

I want to say "good-bye" to seniors Alex Helland and Katie Sieben. Their service goes far beyond their four years of swim performances. They were the most important part of our rebirth this year. They reshaped our identity and recreated our culture. We will be a much better team tomorrow for their devotion today. I will miss you both.

Thanks to the Collegian for allowing us this avenue. Thank YOU for taking the time to read about our sport.


Feb. 19, 11:50 p.m.

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BUFFALO, N.Y. -- After the 400 IM, we slid back to third. Fordham and UMass were ahead of us. The distance between us and the top grew to 111 points, but we were able to close it to 49 points by the end of the night. In swimming, this is a large deficit but it can be overcome.

We were insanely fast tonight...

Katie Sieben won the 100 fly with a :54.37.

Charlotte Brackett broke the 24 year-old school record while winning the 200 free tonight. Her 1:50.00 replaces Sue Wager's 1:50.80.

Lauren Hines won the 100 back with a :53.94 and a new A-10 record.

Nicole LePere, Mary Anne Lerro, Katie and Lauren came from behind to win the 400 medley relay. Katie ate up a two second deficit in her last 100 fly as a Spider.

I asked the women to take risks tonight because, well, we must. If we didn't perform well, we'd be snowed out of the championship for sure. Risks were taken and we were rewarded. Tomorrow is the final day of the meet. We are seeing more fatigue (from other teams of course) as the meet grows on. Tomorrow's session exposes those with weak training backgrounds. We don't have one of those.

I want to comment on the overriding theme of our week - have fun. This is one of those meets where you are happy to be with your friends doing what you love. I love what I do. Thanks for staying with us through this.


Feb. 19, 2:30 p.m.

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- We have holes, but we have many strengths. We do not have participants in the 400 IM, but we have seven in the 200 Free and four in the 100 Back. Tonight, Fordham's lead will grow with the first event and begin to shrink. It will be up to our swimmers to determine the size of the gap after the last event tonight. Momentum is with us.

P.S. It's cold here.


Feb. 18, 11:00 p.m.

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Whoa Buddy! From 10th to second in a night! We are in striking distance!

Part of our preparation for the championship meet is completely unrelated to physical fitness. We prep for the unexpected and rehearse our reactions to unfavorable conditions. It's our emotional fitness. We practice using positive language and we practice boosting our teammates up. We try to eliminate the habit of being selfish; instead, we practice being selfless. We give, not take.

Freshman Lauren Hines closed our team meeting tonight with her comments. She thanked her teammates for standing with her last night after she false started on the relay. "When I saw the way our distance crew swam their 500's today, I knew we were going to be okay. I was so inspired!" It would have been easy for the team to back down today with negativity and frustration; instead, they responded differently. They lifted each other up. They lifted themselves from tenth to second.

Last night, I told Lauren her false start will be a forgotten memory. She has already begun to fade the memory with her performances tonight. She joined Cha Brackett in going 1-2 in the 50 Free and turned around 30 minutes later with Cha, Katie Sieben and Nicole LePere to crush the 200 Free Relay. She has used her teammates to rebound from disappointment; her teammates have used her as inspiration for tomorrow.

Thanks for being on this trek with us.


Feb. 17, 2:00 p.m.

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- If I were to make a highlight video of today's preliminary session, it would have Julian Casablancas' "Out of the Blue" escorting it. (If you haven't dabbled in JC, please do! It is delicious.)

I was the coach with the plague today. I was "that guy" who other coaches, swimmers, and officials avoided. I didn't quite get it. I am assuming they were being mindful of our misfortunes last night, and respectfully wanted to give me my space (whatever that means). Or maybe they were internally cheering because the "once and mighty" Spiders were resting in 10th place after the first night. I asked the women if my breath stunk or I had raunch B.O. - they confirmed I smelled positively like hotel products.

During the preliminary session of a swim meet, the swimmers are seeded with their fastest time achieved up to this point in the year. The fastest swimmers in each heat are seeded in the center lanes with lower seeds extending to the outside lanes. The morning session determines the seed for tonight's finals at which we can score points. (I hope you are listening to Mr. Casablancas by now ... if not, stop reading and start downloading.) The morning session is extremely important because it determines IF you can score at night. We could have rolled over this morning.

"... somewhere along the way my bitterness turned to anger ... somewhere along the way my anger turned to vengeance..."

We made a huge statement this morning especially considering we're the 10th-place team. Freshman Erin Bartholomew moved from 20th to first; sophomore Lexi Kuska moved from 10th to third; junior Chrissy Brodt moved from 19th to fourth; junior Natalie Lewis and sophomore Kristina Lewis also return tonight with scoring chances. Quickly, our status went from "poor Richmond" to "oh boy, here they go again." By the end of the morning, I wasn't banished from the pool; in fact, a few coaches encouraged me to make "it" happen. We have 11 point-scoring swims tonight - the most of any team.

There is no doubt we're the best team here. We have to make the most of our chances. Thank you for taking a second to read this.

Back to the pool at 4:30 p.m. for the 6:30 p.m. session start.


Feb. 17, 11:10 p.m.

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- After two events, we're in 10th place ... last.

To an outsider, it might appear we have reason to be concerned or startled. Maybe you're a parent or a friend reading this, and you want to be sensitive to the events of the night. Don't be. Of course, our path to the top now involves 9 teams instead of one or two. Of course, it's easy to look at online results and imagine we're frowning at poor performances. Of course, I would think all of those things too if I wasn't front row with this group.

We swam very well tonight, and I'm not saying this to patronize the women. They know we are fast right now. Our 800 free relay would have broken the school record by 3 seconds had it not been for an excited freshman who couldn't wait to go a 1:49. Cha Brackett was insanely fast tonight by anchoring our medley relay with a 22.55 and anchoring the 800 free with a 1:50.20. We are inspired by each other right now. When you watch a teammate who you have trained with for 26 weeks go very fast, you find confidence you too will be able to perform at a very high level.

Twenty events will be scored this weekend. Two were scored tonight.

"This is the first year we're not destroying everyone after the first night," senior Katie Sieben said. "In the past, we were able to just win. This year is different. We will have to swim inspired and swim against challenges. We're ready for this."

If you ever question the value of sport, listen to this wise senior lead her teammates.

Official splits

200 Medley

AH 26.51

ML 28.96

KS 24.30

CHA 22.55

800 Free

EB 1:53.52

LH 1:49.52

MJ 1:51.97

CHA 1:50.20


Feb. 17, 1:30 p.m.

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- The laughs and smiles continue.

Today is a big day! The women finally shave their legs! Oh wait ... that's not it.

The A-10 championship meet starts at 6:30 p.m.! There will be two races tonight. We are wearing the LZR Elite in black with black silicon swim caps with the white spider logo on both sides of the cap. I expect all teams will be wearing comparable suits as every team recognizes the advantages of the suits.

As a coach, I try to collect as much feedback from the athletes as I can -- especially this time of year. I listen more than they think. I observe their behavior in and out of the water. I scan for any signs of illness, fatigue, excitement and energy. Over the past two months, Danielle and I have been able to make accommodations to their individual training arrangements based on the verbal and nonverbal data we collect. I harvested feedback today while we were at the pool, and it sounds as if their bodies are primed to swim very fast. Rest can be a funny thing ... a good funny thing.

Our 200 medley relay will have senior Alex Helland (back), sophomore Mary Anne Lerro (breast), senior Katie Sieben (fly), and sophomore Cha Brackett (free). Our 800 free relay will have freshman Erin Bartholomew, freshman Lauren Hines, sophomore Michelle Johnson and Brackett.

Live results (not webcast)


Feb. 16, 11:30 p.m.

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Easy travel day.

All the A-10 teams traveled today as the meet begins at 6:30 p.m. tomorrow night. We will head to the pool in the morning for a final practice before we launch our 200 medley relay and 800 free relay tomorrow night.

During our January training trip to Florida, we addressed our fears as individuals and as a group. It was in a meeting in which each of us exposed a personal fear and an athletic fear. In many regards, it was the most fruitful exercise we have done. Many vulnerabilities were shared and many tears were shed. It was raw. We categorized the fears into healthy fears (ex. disappointing my teammates, my coaches, my parents) and unhealthy fears (ex. tornados, spiders, blind dragons). We resolved to work together as friends, teammates and people to quell the fears we could impact.

The team has stood on these fears and conquered many of them in recent weeks, so tonight we held a more playful ceremony. Each swimmer created a Play-Doh "thing" symbolic of what they wanted to "crush" this week. With rubber mallet in hand, the ladies vigorously "crushed" their personal best times, A-10 records, relays, other schools, and all of the doubters. It was a fun way to say, "Goodbye fears & hello fast swimming!" (Many laughs followed the many missed swings!)

I have Charlotte "Cha" Brackett on my mind tonight. As a sophomore, Cha has grown jet-packs of confidence since her freshman year. We will count on her twice tomorrow night to anchor BOTH relays. It's a role she can handle, and I hope she is smiling as big tomorrow night as she was tonight. You can do it Cha!


Feb. 16, 10:15 a.m.

RICHMOND, Va. -- We head to Buffalo once a year for a four-day swim meet. It's a special trip.

In the college swimming and diving community, February is the marquee month. Collegiate conference championship meets are being contended around the country this week - SEC, ACC, and many more in Division I, II and III. For our swimming Spiders, this week's A-10 championship meet is our Super Bowl, Olympics, All-Star Game and March Madness without the grand fanfare. It's our Broadway stage after many rehearsals.

Our sport is an individual sport. Of course, our swimmers will race against other competitors this week; team scores will be kept; champions will be recognized. But all efforts are measured against the clock. Each swimmer will try to reach speeds they have never achieved and stop the clock earlier than ever. The clock is the true standard by which we will measure ourselves. In anything we do, it takes courage to challenge your previous best, and it takes greater courage to expose yourself to the possibility of dissatisfaction or disappointment. Our Richmond swimmers have braved 26 weeks of preparation to be great THIS week. I'm confident in these women.

We're flying to Buff as a piece of the college swimming winter ritual and to test ourselves. You might think we've packed only seriousness and focus, yet I sit in RIC with 17 women and 17 different colorful magazines about celebrities, celebrity diets, celebrity death rumors and rumors of the Bachelor. Liz Cohan has decided to interrupt the celeb ridiculous with a not-so-inspiring story about her failed attempt to teach her dog to swim. ... We know Liz could teach her cat to swim though.

RIC > JFK > BUFF ... We love Buffalo.

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