Swim team dives toward another ODAC title

The men’s swim team aims to win first back-to-back conference trophy since 2007 season


Noah Schammel, ‘18, placed first in three different events in the team’s meet against Randolph-Macon: the 100-yard buttrerfly, the 200-yard butterfly and the 200-yard medley relay. Photo courtesy of W&L Sports Info.

Alex Niemann

The Washington and Lee men’s swim team will look to defend its ODAC title this season following an impressive conference championship run last year.

Though a championship repeat is never a given, with the weapons at W&L’s disposal this season, the team believes another title is well within reach.

At a lofty rank of twelfth in the country at the DIII level, the men of W&L swimming certainly have the talent to make it happen.

“We have a lot of kids that are ranked top-10 [in the country] in their individual events,” head coach Kami Gardner said. “I expect us to send a pretty good contingent to nationals this year.”

If last year is any indication, Gardner should feel pretty good about her statement. Multiple members of the men’s swimming team were finalists at the ODAC championship last year, including some top finishes in the 50 yard freestyle, 200 yard freestyle, and 200 yard breaststroke, among others.

The team also saw Tommy Thetford, ‘17, place twice at DIII nationals last year, including a fourth place finish in the 50 yard freestyle and a fifth place finish in the 100 yard freestyle. 

Despite the sky-high expectations, continuing to put in hard work and maintaining focus remains a priority. With this mindset, the team is endeavoring to be constantly improving and widening the gap between it and the competition.

“Our team just continues to get stronger every year, so I don’t think we’re giving any ODAC teams a chance to catch up and beat us,” Captain Harris Pritchard, ‘16, said.

On top of having nationally competitive talent, Pritchard said he believes his teammates are hitting their stride. With the ODAC championship only a handful of meets away, the team could not have picked a better time to be on top of its game.

“At mid-season, it is clear that we are stronger and faster than we have ever been and we should have a great meet come ODAC’s,” Pritchard said.

Despite a wealth of individual talent, the team maintains that its success will depend upon its ability to put forth a strong, team-wide effort. In an individual sport like swimming, the challenges teammates place on each other in practice are what lead to team wins.

“The biggest key to our success is the way this group has developed as team,” Gardner said. “They’re incredibly supportive of each other and yet they push each other to be the best athlete and person they can be. They’re racers, they’re gamers, they like to compete, whether it’s in practice or at a meet. One person can’t win us a conference championship.”

The team competed for the last time in 2015 on the weekend of Dec. 4 and 5 when it placed second at the Randolph-Macon Invitational. The Generals  will have a few weeks to focus on training before returning to action on Jan. 9 when they face Hampden-Sydney.