Adam Lindner | Sports Editor
The Duquesne swimming & diving program won its first-ever Atlantic 10 title on Saturday, Feb. 17 in Geneva, Ohio, at SPIRE Institute, where it outscored seven-time defending champion Richmond 567-558.
The Duke spoke with 17-year swimming head coach Dave Sheets following his program’s championship victory.
Portions of the conversation have been edited for clarity.
Q: This year, freshman swimmer Emma Brinton was really outstanding for you guys, winning weekly awards seemingly every other week. How big was that addition to your program this year?
A: I think what it symbolizes is the building of our program. Emma was a great addition, but those are the caliber of kids that we’re bringing in to our program. You know, we did it the year before with our sophomore class. So, you know, having somebody like Emma come into our program, it sets our bar for recruiting at a higher level, and I think that’s important for us to continue our success moving forward — not just in the A-10, but as we try to break through on the national scene as well.
Q: As far as adding things goes, how big was the addition of the diving component for your program this season in finally being able to win the title?
A: This year, Charlie [Hauser], the diving coach, and I made a decision that our divers — because it is a new program and it’s so young — our divers weren’t ready yet to compete as point scorers at the conference championship. So what we did is we used this as a learning experience for them, and they dove as exhibition — knowing that next year they’re going to come back, and they’re going to be a critical part of us trying to win another conference championship.
Q: You had two back-to-back second place finishes in conference the past few years; how good does it feel to finally just get over that hump and bring home a title to Duquesne?
A: Well, I think it’s a testament to the work that our women are doing in the pool and in the weight room, and all of our coaches and our support staff … For me, it took us 17 years to get here, and it’s very rewarding, for sure, to finally get that first one. But now, you know, we want to kind of continue on what we’ve done.
Q: Talking about continuing what you’ve done, you’ve obviously seen Richmond as a really strong testament to what a good program can be. What kind of steps do you plan to take to remain consistently competitive when it comes to winning titles within the A-10?
A: Well, we just have to keep doing the right things. We have to keep getting the right kind of swimmers and divers in our program. As coaches, we have to continue to push our athletes to get better, and we have to get the kind of athletes in here that want to win conference championships and help us continue this success that we’ve built over the last, you know, 17 years, and really, over the last five years.
Q: Heading into the last day of competition [at the Atlantic 10 Championship], you guys were slightly trailing Richmond.
A: One point.
Q: What was the message heading into that last day, where it seemed like it was going to be between you two for the title?
A: We tried to keep the message consistent through the whole meet, and that was basically, you know, ‘We can’t control what anyone else is going to do. What we can control is what we do and how we approach every race.’ And that’s what we focused on. We focused on what we could control, and at the end of the day, I told the swimmers, ‘Whatever that scoreboard says at the end of the day is what it says. But just get in, do your best, focus on what you can control, and if we do that, we’re going to be in a good place.’
Duquesne will cap off its season from March 8-10, when the Dukes will compete at the College Swimming Coaches Association of America (CSCAA) National Invitational Championship in Annapolis, Maryland, at the Naval Academy’s Lejeune Hall Pool.