WASHINGTON – The Gallaudet University men's and women's swimming teams are entering their second season under the guidance of head coach Larry Curran, who has been preparing for the season a little differently than last year. After the men’s team finished third and the women’s team finished fourth at the North Eastern Athletic Conference (NEAC) championships last year, Coach Curran has taken a different approach to training this year in hopes of bringing the NEAC title back to Gallaudet. The preseason has consisted of multiple out of the water exercises and team building activities to turn a group of talented individuals into a successful collegiate swimming and diving program.
Preseason activities included solving puzzles such as the “Human Knot,” “Tarp Flip” and the “Human Overhand Knot” which proved to be very challenging as the participants’ hands were not always available to communicate. The student-athletes also completed numerous drills on the softball field including relays that required running while balancing a ball and running while wearing flippers and competing in tandem relay races that required a lot of teamwork. The program was pushed to new heights as they also attempted a series of obstacles on the Gallaudet ropes course. They began with ground level balancing activities and then progressed to more difficult obstacles like climbing a 30-foot telephone pole. It may sound like fun and games but the motive behind it all was about much more.
“The goal was to get them to know each other, to understand what their individual goals were but to make them a part of something much bigger than themselves. So at this point, they are vested in the success of the team and in doing that they hope to accomplish their own goals at the same time,” said Curran.
The new swimmers are adapting well to the intensity of the workouts and are starting to see improvements. Coach Curran expects the newcomers to make a significant impact on the success of the team. For the women’s team, freshman Molly Verseput (Upland, Calif.) is expected to do well in distance freestyle and butterfly and has been training hard with sophomore Brianna Stroud-Williams (Tucker, Ga.). Sophomore Paige Foreman (Albuquerque, N.M.) has put a lot of work in the offseason and has showed a lot of improvements. All-NEAC first team honoree Alexandra Polivanchuk (Orebro, Sweden) is returning for her third season with the Bison and is expected to set some new Gallaudet records and make a statement at this season’s conference championships. She currently holds school records in 50-yard breaststroke, 50-yard backstroke, 100-yard breaststroke, 100-yard individual medley (IM) and 200-yard IM, all of which she set in 2012.
On the men’s side, DJ Everton-Lovell (Norfolk, Va.) is back for his senior season after earning five all-NEAC honors last year. Coach Curran anticipates Everton-Lovell to have a very competitive season and win a handful of individual championships. Fellow senior Tony Dall (Indianapolis, Ind.) has been training adamantly to eliminate mistakes and develop his technique to ensure success this season. Coach Curran also has big hopes for junior Maurice Abenchuchan (Sacramento, Calif.) in the sprint freestyle.
The diving program is relatively new and growing, but the Bison expect to be competitive in this event as well.
Sophomore Neal Matthews (Kent Island, Md.) should be a contender for diving in the NEAC championships this year and junior Abdiel Davila-Cruz (Orlando, Fla.), who is a strong competitor in the breaststroke, will also contribute to diving.
“The diving team is improving tremendously now. Coach Jesse [Fonner] is very good at teaching starting divers and he can take them from barely being able to jump in the water to a list a dives that will allow them to compete in the championships by February,” said Curran.
Curran believes his swimming and diving teams, both men’s and women’s, have the skill and athletic ability to come together and win the conference championships. His overall goal for the student-athletes is for them to discover their abilities, develop new skills to the highest level, individually develop and have a good team record as a result.
With a handful of newcomers this season’s schedule will certainly be challenging, but the teams have been training hard and the expectations are high. They will be faced with a variety of teams, conference and non-conference alike.