Men’s swim & dive repeats as NEISDA champions, women’s team places second

From left to right: Coach Emmert, senior Andrew Gillie, senior Paul Marchese, and senior Connor Lautenschlager jump in after the win.

Megan Julian, Herald Contributor

KINGSTON, R.I. — The air filled with the smell of chlorine. The swimmers fit their goggles to their faces and pulled their swim caps on tight. Looking straight down into the crystal cool water of the pool, they slowly lifted their heads to see teammates cheering them on at the other end. The swimmers know that this is their time to compete. For Roger Williams University swimmers — this is family business.

The men’s and women’s swimming and diving teams competed in the New England Intercollegiate Swimming and Diving Association (NEISDA) Championships this past weekend at University of Rhode Island. The men’s team took first place for the second straight year and the women’s team took second. This motto of “family business” was the main focus of their meets this season and brought the men to another title. Coach Matt Emmert discussed the true meaning behind what this motto is about.

“It’s not about just putting up times and winning championships,” Emmert said. “It’s about lessons and bonds we are making with one another and the investment in one another.”

On the days RWU swimmers were not competing, they cladded shirts that say, “Success is the Family Business.” The message helped the athletes and coaches stay cool, calm, and collected, knowing they have such an amazing support system. 

“No matter what, if you fall down, the family is here to pick you up,” Emmert said.

He believes that there are always lessons learned when competing at this level. The men’s team faced off against University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, Bridgewater State University, Norwich University, and Keene State College during the four-day competition.

Determined to perform at their highest level, the men’s team did just that. The men took home first place with a score of 964, giving them a total of 606.2 points. They won first-place in the 800 and 200 freestyle relays, 50-meter freestyle, and 50-meter butterfly.

Freshmen Eamon McKenney and Hunter Wronski, junior Hunter Olson, and senior Gabriel Pasqualucci set a new school record with a first place finish in the 200-yard freestyle relay with their time of 1:33.62.

Wronski also finished first in the 1650-yard freestyle, beating the field and registering a time of 16:15.78, setting a new school record by ten seconds.

McKenney earned the win at the 50-yard backstroke with a time of 23.78 — setting a new school record but also a new NEISDA Championship record in the process. He also took the top spot in the 100-yard backstroke in a time of 52.03.

The women’s team competed against Simmons College, Keene State College, Westfield State University, and Eastern Connecticut State University.

The women won first-place in the 400-meter medley with a time of 3:58.48 and 200-meter free relay with a time of 1:38.37. They won second place in the 800 and 400-meter free relays with times of 8:00.59 and 3:35.06, respectively. They also placed second in the 200-meter medley relay with a time of 1:48.26. The women finished second place overall, narrowly losing out to Simmons College. 

Sophomore Madison Guitard was emotional at the end of the competition, but is looking forward to next season. 

“I hope we can come back and get some really good recruits and be able to come back and take our championship again,” Guitard said.

As much as the women wanted a championship title for themselves, the team couldn’t be happier for the men’s team earning another chip. Senior captain Andrew Gillie competed in the men’s 100-meter breaststroke with a time of 58.04 seconds, finishing second. He placed third in the 200-meter butterfly receiving a time of 1:59.10. 

Gillie was ecstatic about the win.

“I am feeling overjoyed with all mixed emotions,” Gillie said. “We put everything out there and we earned this. I could not have done it without our family of guys and our coaches and everybody, even the girls. Everybody helped us to this victory.”

Emmert couldn’t keep his excitement inside either.

“It is always surreal, our sport,” Emmert said. “You are putting in so much work for 100th of a second and this meet is three full days. It does not sink in until about a week later.”

Coach Emmert is looking forward to next season with a chance to keep the legacy that the men’s and women’s teams have made for themselves.