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March 22, 2017

UMass swimming earns runner-up in Atlantic 10 Championships

Maria Uminski/Daily Collegian

Maria Uminski/Daily Collegian

The Massachusetts men’s swimming and diving team came in second place at the Atlantic-10 Championships in Geneva, Ohio, for the second consecutive season this weekend.

With a total of 624 points, the Minutemen could not catch up to St. Bonaventure, who finished with 718 points to win the team title for the second straight season.

Sophomore Alex Bomprezzi was one of the top swimmers of the meet for UMass, winning the 500 freestyle and finishing third in the 1,650 freestyle. He was also a part of the 800-freestyle relay team that came in third.

The 200-medley relay team also provided the Minutemen with a third place finish, consisting of junior Hao Luong, freshman Alex Mesisca, senior Chris Inglis and sophomore Wiktor Karpinski.

Luong was another swimmer who had a terrific outing for UMass, who medaled for the third consecutive year, this time earning the bronze in the 200-meter back.

Although they came up short in the end, UMass coach Russ Yarworth was very happy with the effort his team gave, and said there is nothing for his team to hang their heads about.

“I know we came up on the short end of the stick, but I couldn’t be prouder of the effort the guys put in,” Yarworth said. “All the kids swam great and I admire them for the effort they put in all year long.”

One swimmer who really stood out to Yarworth was freshman Heath Maginn, who battled mono in the first semester, but earned a fourth place finish in the 200-meter back.

Sophomore Josh Koppel proved unbeatable in the diving portion, claiming first place finishes in both the 1-meter board and 3-meter board. His accomplishments were recognized in the end as he was named Men’s Diver of the Meet and will head to the NCAA Zone A Diving Meet on March 10 in Christianburg, Va.

“Josh winning both boards was really terrific, followed by all of the freshmen divers who really stepped up, so I take my hat off to Mandy (Hixon) because she really got those kids prepared,” Yarworth said.

UMass diving coach Mandy Hixon, who was named Diving Coach of the Year for the fifth time, was extremely pleased with not only the performance of Koppel, but from her underclassmen as well.

“The ones that did really well for us and set the tone were our underclassmen,” Hixon said. “Nolan Burns finishing third in 3-meter having never dove in the event before was really special, and I was also very impressed with Robert Barry and Niles Ackerman, who each finished in the top 8 in both boards.”

Women finish in third

Despite a season of several ups and downs, the Minutewomen ended on a high note, finishing in third place at the A-10 Championships.

In spite of a disappointing first day that left it in ninth place, UMass stormed back in the standings, moving all the way up to third and finishing the meet with 467 points. Minutemen coach Bob Newcomb said his team rebounded amazingly after the first day, and knew that this was a typical meet for the girls.

“The expression is ‘you can’t win a meet on relays but you can lose them’, and we had one of our relays disqualified, so that was 20-something points right there we could have earned,” Newcomb said. “ After that poor session, I think the team really pulled their heads together and said they didn’t belong in ninth place, so they kept firing away and doing what they had to do.”

Newcomb was very pleased with his entire team, but singled out several swimmers who he thought had tremendous meets, including Rebecca Quirie, Molly Smyth, Katie Arnott and diver Michaela Butler.

Smyth broke her own school-record in the 1,650-meter free when she had a time of 10:14.68 after 1,000 yards, while Quirie set a school-best in the 200-meter back in 2:01.95, a record that had not been broken since 2001.

Like Koppel, Butler dominated the diving portion, winning both 1-meter and 3-meter events. Hixon also mentioned the efforts of sophomore Mikhaila Eckhardt, who finished in second behind Butler in both boards.

The big thing Newcomb says him and his team talk about are the A-10’s, and how everything they do is geared towards that one final meet.

“Everything we do all year is for having success at at the end,” he said. “When you actually have it, it really justifies all the hard work and effort that the team put in, so for them it’s very special.”

Jason Kates can be reached at jkates@umass.edu.

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