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UMass sweeps Rhode Island Invitational

11This winter break marked a transition in the swimming and diving season. Before the season, men’s coach Russ Yarworth said the events that would take place after the Loyola Invitational on Jan. 9 as key meets in the stretch run before the Atlantic 10 season.

After taking their annual winter break trip to San Juan, Puerto Rico, the Massachusetts men and women’s swimming teams came back to the frigid temperatures of the Northeast to compete in the two-day Rhode Island Invitational. They were accompanied by the Massachusetts diving teams who spent some of their winter break training at the facilities at Georgia Tech.

The meet, which took place in Kingston, R.I., was an A-10 showdown as it featured the swimming and diving teams of La Salle University, George Washington and host Rhode Island. Before the race, the latest rankings from Collegeswimming.com placed both the Minutemen and Minutewomen among the Top 25 swimming programs in the nation. The men placed 10th and the women were ranked 21st. Both teams’ performances this past weekend did nothing to put their spots in jeopardy.

The Minutemen and women both got off to a great start on the Invitational’s first day. The men’s team jumped out of the gates with a first-place finish in the 400 medley relay. Seniors Andrew Wilbrandt and Mike Berthaume teamed up with juniors Trevor Ziegler and Brian Schmidt to finish with a time of three minutes, 29.77 seconds; over two seconds ahead of second-place La Salle. Led by the standout sophomore Jason Cook, the Minutemen took control of the diving boards by capturing first place in five of six diving events. The diving teams also received strong contributions from John Clark and Adam Dunfield, who placed right behind Cook.

Sophomore Kayla Teagler earned the Minutewomen’s first top finish on Friday by winning the 500-yard freestyle with a time of 5:20:17. Freshman Amina Meho continued her strong season with another victory in the 50-yard freestyle, and Hannah Swift also got the Minutewomen off to a great start by placing first in the 1-meter diving event. Freshman Michaela Butler finished in third place in the event.

Both teams followed up their first-place finishes on Friday with strong efforts on Saturday to sweep the event. Sophomore Chelsea Downing finished in first place in the 400 individual medley with a time of 4:37:11. Mike Berthaume had another strong day, as he captured two first-place finishes on Saturday. In the last event of the day, Berthaume brought home a first-place finish in the 200 butterfly with a time of 1:55:71. Sophomore Joey Sbordon continued his strong season by capturing first place in the 200 freestyle. He also earned second place in the 1,000 freestyle.

The women’s team finished with a score 635 points through 38 events, well ahead of second-place La Salle, who finished with 554 points. The men’s team finished with 619 points for the weekend, over 120 points more than second-place La Salle.

The teams will see each other again, a month from Sunday, as they compete for conference supremacy in the A-10 Championships on Feb. 17-20.

Jeffrey Engmann can be reached at jengmann@student.umass.edu.

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