On the biggest stage, the Springfield College swimming and diving team shown bright. At the 2013 NCAA Division III Swimming and Diving Championships, the women’s 200 free relay squad of Kellie Pennington, Callie Phillips, Kelsey Poole and Amanda Shaw took home All-American honors, freshman Mike Normoyle grabbed All-American honors in the 200 breast, and in the 800 free relay, Phillips, Shaw, Ashleigh Monroe and Pennington snared Honorable Mention All-American honors while setting a school record. From the diving end, Jen Thompson took home All-American honors in the three-meter board.
“I try not to have expectations for anyone on the team,” said head swimming coach John Taffe. “In my mind, I know that anyone that makes it to Nationals deserves to be there and is capable of competing with anyone. I knew that if we performed up to our ability, we would score a lot of points.”
Pennington finished runner-up in the 50 meter en route to her All-American honors, and the Pride as a whole finished 14th in the nation.
In the 800 relay, the Pride finished 12th in the nation with a SC record-breaking time of 7:36.85. In the 200 relay, Springfield pulled in at 11th with a time of 1:36.02.
“I was really impressed,” remarked Pennington. “To get 11th in a relay we didn’t even qualify for was really impressive. It shows that we are even better than anticipated.”
Normoyle grabbed his first All-America honor in the 200 breast with a time of 2:03.00, good enough to finish 13th in the nation. In the 100 breast, Normoyle finished 17th with a time of 56.68. The top 16 swimmers made the finals, as Normolye missed the cut by a mere 1/100th of a second.
Despite barely missing the cut, the freshman still completed a spectacular rookie season.
“Although Michael was not quite as fast as he had been prior to the meet, he finished the season as the second-fastest freshman in all of DIII in both breaststroke events,” said Taffe.
Not to be overlooked by the spectacular performances in the pool by Springfield swimmers is the All-American performance in the three-meter by Jen Thompson.
“Jen started off the meet on a fairly high note, finishing fifth on the three-meter,” head diving coach Peter Avdoulos said. “That turned out to be our big highlight of the weekend.”
Even with the high honors, Thompson and Avdoulos felt there was still room for improvement.
“Overall, I was a little disappointed with my performance this year, but being able to attend NCAAs for the third year in a row was a great experience,” Thompson remarked. “It was an honor to attend…even though I didn’t compete at the level that I usually do, it was both a good character building and learning experience.”
With the great performances and high accolades, the future is bright for Springfield, who will return the majority of their National Championship competitors. Returning for the Pride from their All-American lineup will be Normoyle, Thompson, Phillips, Poole, Pennington and Monroe.
“The future looks bright since five of the six women [swimmers] at Nationals are returning next year,” said Taffe. “With two of them being freshman, we could be strong for years to come. We may have a couple of impact women recruits coming in next fall that will only enhance the possibilities of our program. We never want to get too far ahead of ourselves, but on paper the women’s team could be very strong next year if all goes well.”
Although the women’s team appears to be heading for great things, Taffe is aware that the men’s team will look to returning swimmers and recruits to build the program.
“The men’s team will be hit a bit by graduation,” cautioned Taffe. “But there are several people returning that were close to making it to Nationals, and if recruiting goes well, we should be solid as a team next year.”
From the diving end of the pool, Avdoulos knows that performing at a high level at NEWMACs, Regionals and Nationals is a tough task, but feels that the team is up for it.
“It’s difficult to perform at your highest level multiple times in a short span of time. We will work on our consistency as well as peaking at the right time,” said Avdoulos. “We have a great group of divers returning and one or two new ones coming in, so we are all very excited about next year.”
The returning divers, led by Thompson, know what it takes to get to the big stage, and plan on working hard to get there.
“I look forward to improving my mentality and physicality for next season,” said Thompson. “I hope to be able to attend NCAAs again next year and represent Springfield well. I am definitely motivated by my performance at NCAAs this year and will be working even harder to improve upon it for next year.”
The Pride have tasted the juices of success, and with a large contingent of returning All-Americans, Springfield knows what they must do to get back to the top of Division III. Although it appears to be a tough road back to the top, both mentally and physically, the Pride are anxiously awaiting the challenge.