The Springfield College men and women’s swimming and diving team have both started their 2013-2014 campaigns as they head into the third week of November.
The men have started with a respectable 2-2 record in meets thus far, while the women have claimed the 13th spot in the national Division III rankings, as they have started 3-2. Both were pleased to hear that their players have received NEWMAC awards.
Durham, N.H. native, Jack Lewis, has been named NEWMAC Diver of the Week for consecutive weeks. He received the honors this week after his national-qualifying score on the three-meter board.
On the women’s side of things, senior Kellie Pennington earned NEWMAC Swimmer of the Week honors last week. The Physical Education major fired out of the gate as she finishes up her Springfield College swimming career. Pennington was able to win four events (200 free, 100 free, 50 free, and 200 free relay) in the team’s tri-match against Coast Guard and URI.
“There are a lot of fast swimmers in our conference alone,” Pennington said modestly. “I am most definitely pleased to be named NEWMAC Swimmer of the Week.”
Pennington has gotten an experience here at Springfield College that not many athletes get to experience. She competes only 30 minutes away from her home in Monson, Mass.
“Swimming close to home has only made my college experience more enjoyable,” Pennington said. “I actually swim with a large number of people I competed against in high school, and even compete against other locals within our schedule.”
The swimming and diving teams compete alongside each other for meets, but are headed by Springfield College graduate and coach Peter Avdoulos and University of Rhode Island graduate and coach John Taffe. Avdoulos heads into his 29th year as the coach of the diving team, but the past two years have brought on something that is incomparable to the other 27 years: his sophomore daughter, Melanie, is on the squad.
“It’s different, but it’s good,” Avdoulos said. “She’s doing well, and I love having her on the team.”
Avdoulos is looking ahead at what could be a very successful season, as he hopes to see eight of his divers finish in the top six of their respected gender in the NEWMAC Championships, which take place in Worcester, Mass. from February 21-23. Furthermore, he hopes they will be able to surpass the national qualifying scores and perhaps earn a bid to regionals. It would only build upon his already impressive résumé.
“[The accolades] mean that the divers are doing well,” Avdoulos said. “It’s not about me; it’s about how they perform. A lot of people relate that to the coach, but I think that they’re achieving their goals and aspiring to high levels.”
His partner-in-crime, John Taffe, has been the swimming coach at Springfield College for 25 years. Through those years, the two have acquired a bond beyond the swimming pool.
“We work together very well,” Avdoulos said. “He’s one of my best friends out of here. He’s the godfather of my youngest daughter. The relationship is great, and we have been together so long that we kind of know how it flows.”
Taffe, who also has a very successful résumé, loves being at Springfield College.
“It’s definitely a place that I became comfortable with.” Taffe said. “It’s hard for me to believe [that I’ve been here 25 years] because the years go by so fast, but maybe that’s a product of enjoying what you do. The group of people that I work with year after year makes the job easier and are able to make it a good working environment.”
The dynamic duo look to coach the Pride to a successful season and eventually send as many people as they can to Indianapolis, Ind. for the Division III National Championships from March 19-22. The Lady Pride look to possibly finish in the top 10 this year for the first time since 1999, while the men look to possibly stun the DIII competition and be ranked themselves. Neither swimming nor diving is more important than the other, but they are both central points to both teams’ winning.
“We are very strong in the swimming end, we are very strong in the diving end, and when we put that together, we win,” Avdoulos explained.
It seems simple enough, but only time will tell if the 2013-2014 Springfield College men and women’s swimming and diving teams will be remembered for years to come.