By Natalie Fiorilli | The Duquesne Duke
For some participating in the Duquesne Pentathlon/Alumni swim meet, it had been a while since they had swam competitively. Even former Atlantic 10 conference champ Eddie Leblanc seemed pretty winded after his final race Friday night at Towers pool.
“It’s been a long time,” LeBlanc explained. “But it was good to swim again.”
Friday night provided the opportunity for Duquesne’s alumni swimmers, including the women’s team, to enjoy some friendly competition at their alma mater. They also got a preview of the current Duquesne women’s swimming team.
During LeBlanc’s senior year in 2010, the athletics department put an end to the men’s swimming program, along with the men’s wrestling, golf and baseball teams.
“One thing that has been better about losing the men’s program has been that the women’s program has definitely become stronger,” LeBlanc said. “I believe they’ve worked their way up in the A-10 rankings these past couple of years.”
The Duquesne women’s swimming team raced amongst current teammates in the 100 Fly, 100 Backstroke, 100 Breaststroke, 100 Freestyle and 100 Individual Medley. In between these events, the alumni got a chance to compete against other alumni swimmers in 50-yard races in the same events.
While it was only a friendly competition, the women’s race times were noted by head Coach Dave Sheets, who intends to record them for reference this season.
“It’s fun to swim with alumni and see how they’re doing,” senior swimmer Elizabeth Czachowski said. “It’s also fun knowing [the seniors] are going to be there next year.”
“It gives us an opportunity to focus and see how mentally tough our swimmers are and build on that as we progress towards the conference championship,” Sheets said.
Sheets has high hopes for his team this year, especially after last week when they were picked to finish third at A-10’s this season in a consensus of the league’s head coaches.
“This is definitely the best team we’ve ever had,” Sheets said. “We have a lot of expectations and they’re working really hard.”
Sophomore Shelly Heim agrees.
“I think this is going to be a really good season,” Heim said. “We’re all working hard to get as high as we can on the podium this year.”
The Dukes have certainly raised the bar, especially in their last season alone. The 2014-15 team broke a Duquesne record, placing third out of 11 teams at the A-10 Championship, which was the highest Duquesne has ever placed at A-10’s.
A large group effort will be vital to the team’s success, and Sheets sees that potential in his team this year.
“It’s a close team,” Sheets said. “We have a saying in our program: ‘Individually we’re good, but together we can be great’. We focus on being together, and that’s where we get our power. We’re looking forward to what the next five months holds for us.”
The season will kick off this week when the Dukes participate in the Richmond Duals this Friday and Saturday. The team will return home against Youngstown State on October 24 at 12 p.m.