East Coast Collegiate Swimming and Diving Club National Championship

Seventy-four of the nation’s top collegiate club swimming and diving teams poured into the Georgia Tech Natatorium in Atlanta, Ga. on Friday April 9. Some were new to the meet and some were seasoned veterans. Over the course of three days of competition, participants would compete in 53 events, a new champion would be crowned, and records would be shattered.

Club sports are often overlooked. They don’t receive the same attention and funding as NCAA teams, but they’re also not as relaxed as intramural sports. Club teams play against other universities, like NCAA teams, but just aren’t sanctioned. However, many flying under the radar may soar above expectations and win national titles.

For the 12th time since its inauguration in 2004, The East Coast Collegiate Swimming and Diving Club National Championships welcomed swimmers from around the country, not just from the East Coast as the name suggests. Some teams traveled from as far as Wisconsin, Texas, Indiana, and Colorado. Roughly 1,539 swimmers participated at the site of the 1996 Summer Olympic Games in one of the largest collegiate club championships in the U.S.

For the first time in four years, the University of Maryland Club Swim team made an appearance. When the varsity swim program at UMD was cut in 2010, some swimmers chose to leave the university. However, some decided to join the club team. Now, five years later, the team has risen to competing once again at the national level, not as a varsity team, but as a club team.

“I honestly have to say that weekend has been one of the most exciting and rewarding times of my life,” said UMD senior Andrew Blyskal, who was a freshman on the varsity program when it was cut. “I never thought I would be competing at this level again, but there were some pretty fast swims this weekend!”

The championship keeps to the spirit of club-level sports and therefore does not have qualifying standards for most races. It welcomes swimmers and divers of all levels, from beginner to advanced. For some participants, the event was more for the atmosphere of the meet rather than the times.

“It was a great opportunity to bond with my team,” James Madison University freshman Sam Swingle said. She was also humbled by the opportunity to compete in an Olympic pool. “Not everyone gets the chance to do that.”

Since 2011, University of Colorado has led both the women’s division as well as the combined division. For the men’s, it has changed between University of Florida, University of Rhode Island, and University of Colorado. The University of Colorado was looking to win each category this year, while other teams were vying for an upset.

After five sessions, Colorado took both the combined title as well as the women’s title. The Florida Gators took the men’s title.

Over the course of the weekend, 13 records were broken:

  • Alaina Gossett’s 200 Backstroke (2:06.65)
  • Juliana Prim’s 100 and 200 Butterfly (56.99 and 2:05.93, respectively)
  • Melissa Andruzzi’s 200 IM, 400 IM, 200 Breaststroke, 200 Freestyle, and 100 Freestyle (2:06.63, 4:30.94, 2:18.11, 1:51.09, and 51.42, respectively)
  • Andrew Brower’s 200 Breaststroke (2:00.62)
  • Maddie Sibilia’s 100 Freestyle (10:51.80)
  • UVA men’s 4x200 Freestyle Relay (6:56.44)
  • UCF men’s 4x100 Medley Relay (3:17.98)
  • Colorado women’s 4x50 Medley Relay (1:50.67)

“Times that would’ve placed top 20 in previous years struggled to break top 40 with the increase in speed,” said Scott Wheeler, a graduate student at the University of Florida. “More teams are realizing that this is the most competitive meet for college swimmers outside of varsity meets.”  

Swimming and diving aside, the fans were a huge contribution to the atmosphere and this meet wasn’t without its fun quirks. If you happened to attend finals, you would’ve seen fans in alligator hats, masks, face paint, and even a guy in bright red inflatable sumo suit cheering in packs for their teammates.

This year’s championship proved to be one of the fastest and most competitive in its history. Some teams have already begun planning and counting down to next year.

By the end of the weekend, it was evident that, no matter the times and the places, teams became stronger and all that could be seen were smiles and hugs (and some very sore muscles).

UMD freshman Parker Meek was just happy to have had the time to spend with teammates, people he calls a part of his family.

“This weekend brought us together, these incredible people, not just on my team but those from other teams who I met, will stick with me for the rest of my life.”

All photos come from the "East Coast Collegiate Swim & Dive Club National Championships" Facebook page, taken by Y. Zhang.