The 2016-17 Seton Hall swimming and diving season team had one of the best seasons in program history.
The men’s team took home its first ever Big East Championship on Saturday, Feb. 25th. The women’s squad finished in third place, the highest finish in program history, after three consecutive fourth place finishes.
“From both sides, everybody brought something to the table,” junior Cody Wimmer said. “They all were doing something to contribute to the team. Everybody had the mindset that ‘I’m going to do whatever I can, not only for the team or for myself, but for Seton Hall.’ It was a really great thing.”
The team’s positive mindset was important heading into the Big East Championship. Coach Ron Farina said that the early success that the men’s side had on Wednesday in the 800 free relay gave the entire program a morale boost.
“With all the emotion going on in the men’s side, the women were able to feed off of that,” Farina said. “They started believing in themselves a bit more, and the men were then able to feed off of that.”
The men’s squad finished with a score of 872.50, nearly 200 higher than the second-place Georgetown Hoyas. It set eight school records in the process, finishing in the top three in 10 events with six first-place finishes. Noah Yanchulis, a junior, was awarded Most Outstanding Men’s Swimmer for achieving four first-place finishes and setting four school records.
“It still hasn’t hit me, and it still hasn’t hit most of the team yet,” Wimmer said. “It’s been something we’ve been working toward for so long, and now that we have it, we want more. We want to do it again.”
While the women’s side did not take home a championship, it turned in an impressive third-place performance. It finished with a score of 518, just 30 ahead of the fourth-place Xavier Musketeers.
“A lot of our freshmen stepped up,” junior Sydney Simpson said. “We started each session off well, and it kind of got us going.”
The women’s squad headed into Saturday’s events behind Xavier in the standings, but Simpson stated that the team did not let the pressure get to them.
“After seeing how prelims went, we were thinking that we had a chance for this,” Simpson said. “We just started off well. The mile was great, and as the day went more records kept falling, and it was just great.”
The records did indeed fall for the Pirates, as the women’s team broke seven program records at the Big East Championship. Needing a strong performance on Saturday, the team had two top-three finishes in the 1650 free and the 400 free relay, which secured third place for the Pirates.
Despite some strong individual performances, both Simpson and Wimmer agreed that the program’s success at the Big East Championship was largely due to teamwork.
“Everyone brings something different, and it’s not just in the pool,” Wimmer said. “They can bring something socially or even academically to the table. It brings such a dynamic, which you need to have.”
“There were points when we were behind, and we said we needed to take this event,” Simpson said. “We had to make sure everyone was staying focused and make sure that they knew what they needed to do.”
To top off a season full of accolades, Farina was named the Men’s Coach of the Year at the end of the Big East Championship. In his 17th season, Farina was honored as the conference’s best coach for the second consecutive season.
“It’s a nice recognition for all the hard work from my assistants and staff,” Farina said. “It was nice to hear and be recognized.”
As the successful 2016-17 campaign has come to a close, Farina is optimistic for the future of the program.
“The start of this team began two years ago at the Championship in Ithaca,” Farina said. “We had a bunch of good freshmen, and their efforts came to fruition on Saturday. The women are at that point now, and hopefully they can look back from the top of the Big East pretty soon.”
Matt Lapolla can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @MatthewLapolla.