CAZENOVIA, N.Y. – The most decorated senior class in Gallaudet University men’s swimming history swam for the final time Sunday on the third and final day of the 2012 North Eastern Athletic Conference (NEAC) swimming and diving championships hosted by Cazenovia College. The Bison went out on top as they won a second consecutive championship with a conference record 580.5 team points, nearly 100 more than second-place Wells College (481), Cazenovia (326.5) was third followed by SUNY Cobleskill (277).
“This was just an excellent top-to-bottom effort this weekend. We brought 17 men’s swimmers/divers with us and each and every one scored points for us. It was a great team performance,” said Gallaudet coach Bill Snape, who took home NEAC Men’s Coach of the Year honors for a second year in a row. “We were posting some great times this weekend and we just wore them down with our depth.”
Gallaudet won seven events during the three-day championship and set six new program records and six NEAC records in the process.
Senior Brian Bennett (Colorado Springs, Colo.) was named the NEAC Men’s Swimmer of the Year for a second consecutive year. Bennett finished the championships with four first-place finishes (one relay), three NEAC records (one relay) and five team records (three relays). Bennett, a transfer student from Northern Colorado, put together an incredible career at Gallaudet in just two seasons. He re-wrote the GU record book as he leaves with six individual event records and was part of four record-setting relays.
“I think he is the greatest Gallaudet men's swimmer of all-time,” said Snape. “He is a two-time NEAC Swimmer of the Year and broke numerous records, and in some instances more than once, he is just a force in the water.”
If Bennett is the best swimmer in Gallaudet history than senior teammate James McGowan (Palm Coast, Fla.) is right behind Bennett as he owns three individual program records and is the only swimmer to be a part of all five team record relays. Bennett and McGowan, combined, hold 14 of the possible 20 team records in GU history.
Seniors Dan Burton (Waukesha, Wis.), Sean Ryant (Cleveland, Ohio), Hipolito Deluna (Chicago, Ill.) and Daniel Katz-Hernandez (Montgomery Village, Md.) were the supporting cast to complete a solid senior class that helped to lead GU to its first two NEAC titles.
“This senior class is fantastic. No other class comes close to what these swimmers did during their time at Gallaudet,” said Snape.
On Sunday, the Bison started the day with back-to-back first-place finishes. Bennett won the 1,650-yard freestyle with a time of 17:45.51 before junior DJ Everton-Lovell (Norfolk, Va.) won the 200 backstroke with a new conference record of 2:06.32. Bennett and Everton-Lovell were the defending NEAC champions in their respective events. Everton-Lovell shaved four seconds off his old conference record of 2:10.61. McGowan took third in the 100 freestyle (51.03) while Ryant was fourth in the 200 breaststroke (2:53.10). The final event of the championships was the 400 freestyle relay where Bennett, Burton and McGowan swam for the last time as a team with Everton-Lovell. The quartet set a new team record when they touched the wall in 3:27.67. The same four swimmers held the old team record of 3:32.47 set last season on Dec. 11, 2010. In fact the top three relay teams in the 400 freestyle posted faster times than the old NEAC record of 3:30.68 accomplished by SUNYIT last year. Cazenovia won the event with a time of 3:24.49 as Gallaudet placed second in front of Wells (3:28.62).
"It's going to be awhile before that team record is broken in the 400 freestyle relay and also the 800 freestyle relay," said Snape.
The GU women's team was unable to defend their championship as they finished third overall this weekend.
Gallaudet’s men’s swim team becomes the first men’s sport to win back-to-back conference titles in the NEAC since the Bison joined in 2010. The Bison women’s volleyball team is the only other program to win back-to-back NEAC titles since joining the new conference. GU women’s swimming won the NEAC title last year.
This is the third year for the NEAC swimming and diving championships. Gallaudet had 502 team points last season when it won the program’s first-ever conference championship. Wells won the 2010 NEAC championship with 470.5 points.
“Our performance at the NEAC championships and in our meets over the years is helping to attract some great talent to our program,” said Snape. “Without a doubt we are going to miss our seniors tremendously, they can’t be replaced. But we will reload and look to next year with the opportunity to compete and be a team in the mix for another conference title.”