St. Mary's, MD(February 17)- Roughly five months have passed since the Gallaudet swim team held tryouts in September for the 2008-09 mens' and womens' squads. Nearly forty individuals practiced at some point with the team during the year, but for the nineteen who represented the Aqua-Bison at the Capital Athletic Conference (CAC) Swim Championships February 13-15, something special was accomplished. The hundreds of hours of chlorinated dedication and dry-land exercises yielded six team records and sixty-four personal best times, not to mention a lot of pride. Every individual on the team contributed to the success and every individual had at least one personal best.
Led yet again by sophomore sensation Carlisle Robinson, who earned All-Conference honors for her outstanding butterfly performances, the Gallaudet swimmers had perhaps their finest championship meet in school history. Among the highlights of the meet were breaking three team records from the 1980's and Robinson had a hand (and leg) in all three of them. The first record to fall occurred Friday the 13th when Robinson, Katie Day, Misella Tomita, and Marissa Larson went 1:51.73 in the 200 Free Relay to beat a record older than the relay members themselves. But Robinson was hardly finished. On both Saturday night and Sunday night, respectively, she smashed two butterfly records held by 80's Gallaudet great (and former coach) Micki Poole, going 1:00.18 in the 100 Fly and a sizzling 2:11.38 in the 200 Fly, where she placed second overall. Her 100 Free split on the 400 Free Relay, just minutes after her 200 Fly, was an impressive 55.9. Other very good relay performances were turned in by Rachel Steingieser and Katie Johnson. Together, the women avenged a dual meet loss to Hood by outscoring their friendly rivals 158-117.
Feeding off this energy, the men got into the action too, breaking all three team freestyle relay records set at the 2008 Championships. The first to fall was the 200 Free Relay where Daniel DiDonna, Zsolt Plaszko, Grady Gallagher, and James McGowan went 1:36.30. Then came the 800 Free Relay where McGowan, Kyle Sexton, Gallagher, and Plaszko swam 8:04.80, narrowly missing getting under the iconic 8 minute mark. Then, in the last event of the meet, the 200 Free Relay was reunited and swam perhaps the men's best race of the year, going 3:34.25 in the 400 Freestyle Relay. Senior captain Scott Cohen also went out in style, gaining four personal best times and lowering his 500 Free time by over 30 seconds. In addition, Kyle Dacus (400IM) and DiDonna (100 Breast) each placed in the consolation finals individually with excellent times.
"In a conference where there are some exceptionally fast swimmers, our team did the University very proud," said head coach Bill Snape. "My hat goes off to everyone who had the guts to take the training punishment over the past several months, but particularly to Carlisle, who everyone knows was the toughest practice swimmer on the team this year. Like her eighteen fantastic teammates, she pushed herself daily and took the risk of failure head on. The lesson learned was exquisitely simple: hard work and focus lead to success."