The Richmond swimming and diving team trumped James Madison University 167-127 Saturday in front of a raucous crowd at the Robins Center Natatorium, led by three seniors competing in their final home meet, and several freshmen swimming in their first.
The Spiders, who hope to capture their eighth consecutive Atlantic 10 Conference Championship Feb. 17 to 21 in Buffalo, N.Y., honored seniors Lauren Beaudreau, Cara Smaniotto and Julia Bizer before the meet. Coach Matt Barany spoke highly of all three athletes, praising them for their abilities and leadership.
“Cara and Lauren have experience with me, my process and the seasonal plan,” he said. “They have done a good job leading by being my eyes, ears and voice during this process. In essence, they have become coaches too.”
The team performed admirably under the pressure of its only home meet of the season, taking an 18-15 lead after the first event. The Spiders never surrendered their advantage.
Nicole LePere, Beaudreau, Katie Sieben and Charlotte Brackett won the 200-yard relay in 1 minute, 45.51 seconds, followed closely by the second team of Beth Ann Platt, Mary Anne Lerro, Jill Smaniotto and Natalie Lewis at 1:48.71.
Alexi Kuska won the 1,000 freestyle in 10:27.25. The third event, the 200 freestyle, featured a 1-2 Spider finish, as Brackett barely defeated Beaudreau, 1:54.04 to 1:54.52.
Lerro followed fellow freshmen Kuska and Brackett in securing a victory, winning the 100 breaststroke in 1:06.05. The performances of her freshmen teammates impressed Beaudreau, the senior captain.
“The freshmen are really starting to find their respective places on the team and grow into more experienced college swimmers,” Beaudreau said. “They did an excellent job knowing what it was they needed to do and executed their tasks.”
In the 200 butterfly, LePere remained competitive throughout, but ultimately finished second with a time of 2:06.95.
The Spiders also received wins from Sieben in the 50 freestyle (24.25) and the 100 free (52.76). Brackett, Lewis, Alex Helland and Sieben also won the 200 freestyle relay (1:36.79).
Julia Bizer, backed by boisterous cheers from the women’s soccer team, of which she was a member for four years, took to the pool and completed her dives, scoring 171.60 points and 153.00 points in the 1- and 3-meter events.
Before the meet, Barany hailed Bizer as a “fearless, fearless diver” and praised her ability to remain flexible, made evident by her learning two dives the day before Saturday’s meet.
“Julia’s bravery has been her biggest contribution,” he said. “When we talk about attacking our fears, we only have to look to Julia to see a great example.”
Fellow senior Smaniotto performed well in several events, finishing second in the 100 breaststroke (1:07.55) and fourth in the 200 breaststroke (2:31.22).
Barany commended Smaniotto for altering her role each year and maintaining her composure after each performance, never allowing her facial expression to betray her true emotion.
“She is respected and adored as a senior,” he said.
Beaudreau, Smaniotto’s roommate from freshmen year, received similar praise from her coach. Barany acknowledged Beaudreau’s commitment to the swimming program; she remained in Richmond each summer she attended Richmond, instead of returning to her home in Lafayette, Calif.
Beaudreau won the 200 breaststroke (2:22.54) and 200 IM (2:07.28) — events in which she holds both school and conference records. In her final home meet, Beaudreau thanked the crowd for its support.
“It was great to have so many people come to support us, especially considering we only have one home meet a year,” she said.
Despite her individual accomplishments this year and throughout her collegiate career, Beaudreau praised the team for its performance this season.
“I honestly think that I have never been more proud to be on a team than I am to be on the team that we have this year,” Beaudreau said before the meet.
The Spiders are now preparing for the A-10 championship. Beaudreau is optimistic about her team’s chances.
“I think we still have some work ahead of us in the next few weeks but I’m excited to see what we can do at the Atlantic 10s,” she said.
Barany agreed with Beaudreau.
“We enter the meet with a balanced team,” he said. “I like our training progress to this point, but swimming fast and winning doesn’t happen because we have already done the work. The ladies must apply all the lessons learned this year and those are being uncomfortable, overcoming fear, working together for every event and realizing the individual potential.”
If the Spiders are able to perform as they did against JMU, they are certain to succeed in Buffalo. But the team is setting its sights even higher, Barany said.
“One goal that receives mention among the team is their desire to win every relay at A-10’s,” he said. “I think we can do one better. I think we can break every A-10 relay record.”
This version of the story ADDS quotes from Barany and Beaudreau.
Contact reporter Jimmy Young at firstname.lastname@example.org