James Leo | Staff Writer
Feb. 27, 2020
The Duquesne women’s swimming and diving team secured a third place finish at the Atlantic 10 Championship held on Feb. 19-22, marking their sixth straight top-three finish at the Conference Championship. The Dukes also broke several school records in the process.
The Dukes scored a total of 525 points during this year’s tournament which now ranks as the third highest total in school history. The first and second highest point totals were also recently captured with the Dukes’ 1st-place finishes in 2018 and 2019.
The first day of the A-10 Championship Tournament started fast for the Dukes. Freshman diver Sidney O’Donnell earned a bronze medal in the 1-meter dive for Duquesne, and the 800 Yard Freestyle Relay team (junior Emma Brinton, senior Carson Gross, senior Lauren Devorace and sophomore Hanna Everhart) took gold and broke a school record with a time of 7:15.54. At the end of the first day, the Dukes were in second place.
The second day proved equally successful with seniors Gross and Devorace earning the silver and bronze medal respectively in the 500-yard freestyle. Gross’s silver-medal performance time of 4:50.07 broke a school record for the event. By the end of the second night, the Dukes maintained their second place position.
Duquesne came out strong on the third day with Everhart earning gold for the Dukes in the 200-yard freestyle. Everhart also set a new school record for this event with a time of 1:48.10. In the 100-yard backstroke, Sophomore Audrey Steen earned a bronze medal to shorten the points gap between Duquesne and George Washington.
On the final day, Everhart earned her third gold medal of the Tournament in the 100-yard freestyle with a time of 50.32. The Dukes finished the tournament in third place, only nine points behind the next school, Fordham.
The tournament featured several record-breaking performances for the Dukes, capping a stellar season and proving once again that Head Coach David Sheets seems to have a formula to keep the swimming program consistent.
“I think for us, it’s just about finding the right kids who fit who we are, that understand what our culture is,” Sheets said. “We’re looking for student-athletes that buy into everything we do. Once you can start doing that on a consistent basis, then you can start having more consistent success. We’re also trying to make sure our swimmers are not just swimmers, but complete athletes as well.”
The team, who won the A-10 Championship in 2018 and 2019, trains hard to remain at top competitors, which Coach Sheets know can be a full time job.
“I think I learned that it [roster changes] is never going to be an organic process,” Sheets said. “It’s something that I’ve got to work at on a daily basis to build and maintain the program.”
Sheets was happy with the A-10 third place finish; however, he seems to hold his team to a higher standard.
“Now, third is good; there’s a lot of other schools that would’ve been happy to finish third,” Sheets said. “But for us, that’s not the bar anymore.”
Although they may not have been crowned champions, the team worked hard all season towards and will continue to strive for perfection.
Such determination can be seen in their practice schedule. “We double up on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday,” Sheets said. “Then, we’ll have one practice on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. They have Sunday off.”
Sheets, once a swimmer himself, noted that training has changed drastically since his days as an athlete.
“I swam back in the early ‘90s, so the way you train has completely evolved from the way that I trained,” Sheets said. “So, I think keeping myself educated and learning from my mistakes from the way that I was trained, helps make our kids better.”
It is quite evident that Coach Sheets’ training regime is working both in the water and out. His resume speaks for itself, as the programs [men’s and women’s] have broken every school record and established a tradition of academic success, having either the men’s or women’s teams being ranked in the top 15 in the country for team GPA each season.
The one thing that the Duquesne women’s swimming and diving team could use is support from the student body.
“We’re in a situation where we don’t have a lot of home meets,” Sheets said. “I think coming to those home meets that we do have, and supporting our student-athletes in that manner, is probably the best way to support us.”
Duquesne students who will be present when the season commences again should take note — as this is certainly a team to follow and one that deserves the spotlight.