Conference championship returns to Amherst for UMass men’s swimming and diving

By Philip Sanzo

(Daily Collegian Photo Archive)
(Daily Collegian Photo Archive)

Another Atlantic 10 championship plaque will be coming to Amherst, as the Massachusetts men’s swimming and diving team took first place in the A-10 tournament this weekend for the second consecutive year and the 16th time in program history.

The win was just the latest in a streak of A-10 dominance for the Minutemen, who have won 16 of the last 21 conference championships.

UMass controlled sole possession of first place for all four days of the tournament, which featured top performances from a number of swimmers.

“It is not an easy sport to do day in and day out, and to see how well they did and come home with another championship is really gratifying,” Minutemen coach Russ Yarworth said. “I’m really proud of them and I think we represented UMass and our tradition pretty well.”

Yarworth was named A-10 swimming coach of the year after the tournament, while UMass’ Mandy Hixon was named diving coach of the year.

The tournament-clincher came Saturday on arguably the best day for the Minutemen according to Yarworth, when UMass had four point scorers in the 1650-yard freestyle.

Alessandro Bomprezzi finished first in the event with a time of 15:51.61. Other first place finishes for Bomprezzi included the 500-yard freestyle on Thursday and as anchor on the 800-yard freestyle relay on Wednesday.

UMass also took first in the 200-yard freestyle relay, as the foursome of Owen Wright, Brian Stiles, Kellen Gray and Wiktor Karpinski came through to win the event.

The Minutemen also enjoyed success in the diving portion of the meet, as Trent Kindvall was named the most outstanding diver of the tournament.

While individual performances gave UMass enough points to win, Yarworth believes the team as a whole deserved credit.

“Certainly we had individuals,” Yarworth said. “But I always preach to the team, from the kid at the bottom of the roster to the kid at the top of the roster, it makes an individual sport possible to do great things, you can’t do it by yourself. I think the team performance is really incredible.”

The Minutemen relied on their senior leadership this season to help the team moving forward all the way through the A-10 tournament. Bomprezzi, Stiles, Karpinski and fellow seniors Kyle Vieira, Joe Woodman and Evan Sholudko all played an integral part in the team’s championship run, according to Yarworth.

“They have been through it before. They know what it’s like to win a championship and what it takes,” Yarworth said of his senior class. “To know what it is like to swim a three and a half day championship and maintain concentration and focus to maintain physical ability as you get fatigued is really important and when you have guys that have been through it, I think it really helps.”

Minutewomen finish fourth in A-10s

Following a disappointing opening day that featured a disqualification in the 800-yard relay, the UMass women’s swimming and diving team bounced back over the final three days of competition, picking up two first place finishes on their way to finishing fourth overall at the A-10 championships.

Meriza Werenski was the top performer for the Minutewomen in the pool, as the junior won the 400-yard individual medley with a UMass record time of 4:16.39. Werenski broke the school record for the 200-yard individual medley with a time of 2.02.06 en route to taking third place in the event.

“She is an amazing individual who is really a great team leader and really a leader in the pool, on dry land, in the weight room, in the locker room and one of those great individuals that just is an exceptional person,” Minutewomen coach Bob Newcomb said of Werenski. “Everyone else is like, ‘Let’s go, let’s follow her.’”

The Minutewomen also found success in Thursday’s one-meter dive. Emma Roush came in first place with a score of 290.80 and Katie Polk finished third in the event (257.65).

Roush, who also finished third in the three-meter dive, was named the most outstanding diver of the tournament.

After a long and grinding season, Newcomb reflected back on 2015-16 and said one of the most difficult parts about a swimming season is waiting for the time when all the hard work pays off.

“The thing about swimming is that we don’t swim very fast all during the season,” Newcomb said. “They have to have the patience to know that this hard work is going to pay off right at this time and they did a great job holding on to this patience and they really did believe and they bought into what we were doing and the results showed.”

Like the men’s squad, the Minutewomen only have a few days to bask in the results of their season before getting back to work for 2016-17.

“The preparation has got to be year round so we will start this spring,” Newcomb said. “This gives us the opportunity also to break some things down, taking some strokes and really starting at ground zero and making some changes that take time during the year to do. Now we have a little time where we can concentrate on possibly doing something that is radically different.”

Philip Sanzo can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @Philip_Sanzo.