Top Swimming Moments

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By: Brian Laubscher
Sports Information Director

Today definitely had a different feel.  As I walked to the main office for a meeting this morning, I noticed the men’s basketball team experiencing Day #1.  That’s right, basketball season has officially started.  The Generals were taking advantage of reading days to have a morning practice, which I’m sure will be followed by an evening practice as well.  I stopped momentarily to take stock and I didn’t see enough to know if they can play a lick, but they are SIGNIFICANTLY TALLER than they were last year.  Keep an eye on that as the winter progresses.

Hoops may be starting, but swimming has already officially kicked off the winter season – the Generals swimming teams have been in the pool for the better part of a month already and their season begins tomorrow with a meet at Mary Washington.  In the spirit of their season beginning, I figured this would be the perfect time to revisit some of my favorite swimming moments from the past 11 seasons.  Perhaps the #1 moment should be the addition of a new ventilation system last year.  You now longer have to deal with sauna-like conditions in the pool area if you want to check out a swimming meet or two.  The difference can’t even be put in words.  Anyway, without further ado, here are my top moments from the Washington and Lee men’s and women’s swimming teams in chronological order:

March 1999
Senior Margaret Hoehl appears in Sports Illustrated’s “Faces in the Crowd”, the first General to appear in the publication since I had arrived at W&L.  Hoehl swam the ODAC’s top time in 10 of 14 individual events that season and went on to earn Honorable Mention All-America honors in the 500 free and 1650 free.  Hoehl still holds school records in the 500 free (5:03.57), 1000 free (10:38.77) and 1650 free (17:35.21).

November 14, 1999
The W&L men’s swimming team knocks off Gettysburg, 137-106 for their first-ever win over the Bullets (not confirmed, but that’s the way I remember it).  Certainly memories fade a little, but I remember that this was a huge victory at the time, especially since then assistant coach Todd Peters was a Gettysburg graduate.  The Generals set nine meet records in the victory and first-year Patrick Frankfort keyed the win with three individual victories.

2004 Men’s Season
The 2004 season was when the men’s swimming team finally found a home in the Bluegrass Mountain Conference.  The Generals claimed the inaugural championship and senior Eric Ritter and first-year Mike Ginder both went on to earn First Team All-America honors at the NCAA Division III Championships.  Ritter finished seventh in the 100 back in a school record time of 51.07 in the 100 back and Ginder finished fourth in the 200 free with a school record time of 1:41.13.  Both records would fall a few years later, but it was an exciting time for the Generals and really began to set the tone for W&L swimming.

2007 NCAA Championships
The W&L men, spearheaded by the performances of senior Mike Ginder and junior Alex Sweet, went on to finish eighth at the NCAA Championships, their highest finish since 1989.  Ginder concluded his career with 16 All-America citations, second-most in school history.  He also graduated holding three individual school records and five relay team records.  The 2007 championship was also sort of a coming out party for Sweet, who finished sixth in the 100 free en route to posting First Team All-America laurels.

Alex Sweet at the 2008 NCAA Championship
It is tough to top the NCAA meet from the season before, but the 2008 championship was pretty special.  The Generals again finished eighth overall, which was tough to imagine with the loss of Ginder to graduation.  However, with him on the pool deck assisting Head Coach Joel Shinofield, the Generals again made a great run.  Now a senior, Sweet kicked off an outstanding championship by winning the National Championship in the 50 free in an NCAA-record time of 19.85.  Sweet later qualified for the U.S. Olympic Trials in the 50 free, finishing in 64th place out of 113 competitors.  He would go on to swim for the University of Louisville during the 2008-09 season while attending medical school.  He qualified for the 2009 NCAA Division I Championships and was a member of the 200 medley relay team, which finished 11th overall, the highest-ever finish by a Cardinals’ relay team at Nationals.

January 17, 2009
The W&L Women’s swimming team knocks off Gettysburg (135-127) for the first time in program history.  Senior Lindsey Strachan keyed the win by claiming two individual events and swimming on one winning relay team.  She won the 200 back in 2:09.53, besting the 26-year old pool record and later, Coach Kami Gardner found herself in the pool after being tossed in by the team.

2009 NCAA Championship
Strachan becomes the Generals first women’s All-American since Hoehl in 1999 when she finished 11th in the 200 back at the NCAA Division III Championships.

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