Union swimming team becomes regional power

Union College’s women’s swimming program has become one of the best in the Northeast.
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Union College’s women’s swimming program has become one of the best in the Northeast.

Four Liberty League titles in four years back up that point.

Union dominated the recent championship meet, winning by nearly 230 points over Rochester.

“We’re small, and I know swimming in the Northeast is not considered dominant, but we seem to attract the right people, and they are very focused,” said Union head coach Scott Felix. “They join our program, and they are focused on winning championships. It’s a very positive thing that our athletes, especially on the women’s [team], keep buying into.”

Felix said the Dutchwomen continue to draw talented swimmers who reach new heights with a little extra coaching.

“We have a pretty good success rate with our recruits,” he said. “We do get some Division III blue-chip people who can make an immediate impact, but we also continue to have people who have never really been in a program as intense as ours. They improve tremendously with a little coaching. But it’s definitely a team effort.

“Our women’s team has all come on in the last four years. They really take pride in winning four titles in four years. Our seniors had that goal since the beginning of the season. Not too many student-athletes can say they’ve accomplished that.”

One of the reasons the Dutchwomen keep winning is because of their depth.

“In championship swimming, one through 16 can score in each event. We don’t just get winners in each event, but we’re also getting the ninths, 10ths, 11ths and 12ths that help us win the overall title. That’s our goal. We want everyone to score at the championship meets. When you score even a couple of points in the championship, it really helps the team total.”

Union won four events the second day of the championship, including the 200 medley relay in 1:53.48. Kirstin Burdett, Kaleigh Ahern, Andrea Marois and Niskayuna’s Maria Prendergast competed in that event.

“This team was pretty solid. They had won the past two years before I came,” said Prendergast, who is a junior. “It had a winning tradition. I could play two sports here, and Scott was really strong in recruiting me.

“At the championship meet, everyone got in a circle, and it felt great for the seniors, because they were 4-for-4. Sara Callahan, Christina Bladek and Amy Nestlerode all strive for the best. Sara and Amy have been to the nationals before, and they swim in the hardest events. Amy has the 200 back record here, and Sara has the mile record.”

Union was second in the men’s Liberty League championship, with senior Kevin Kewin being named the Male Swimmer of the Year. Felix and his staff, which includes assistant Matt Kavanagh and diving coach Tara Campbell, were named the league’s Coaching Staff of the Year.

RPI won its third men’s title in the last five years.

AROUND CAMPUS

u Union’s women’s basketball team is off to a 6-0 start, its best since the 2002-03 season when the Dutchwomen won their first 15 games.

u University at Albany assistant athletic director Wayne Bridgeman died Wednesday after a long battle with cancer.

Bridgeman, 55, was appointed assistant athletic director for compliance on Aug. 17, 2006. He spent the previous two years at New Mexico State University, where he was the director of athletic compliance and eligibility.

He also was the director of compliance at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi and at Sonoma State University. The San Diego State graduate was also a high school basketball coach and an assistant basketball coach at California State University-Hayward. Before transferring to San Diego State, he played two seasons at the University of Colorado.

u Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute head athletic trainer Anthony Ortolano has been named the trainer for the United States men’s lacrosse team for the second time.

He was also part of the 2006 squad that played in the world championship game. The U.S. team will compete in the 2010 Federation of International Lacrosse World Championship in Manchester, England.

Ortolano, who has been a trainer at RPI since 1985, is a member of the New York State, Eastern Regional and National Athletic Trainers’ Associations. He was presented the Tom Sheehan Award, given annually to the New York athletic trainer who has done the most for the field, in 1982.

u SUNY-Cobleskill distance runner Meghan LaPoint (Colonie High School) broke the Fighting Tigers’ women’s indoor track and field record in the 5,000 meter run Saturday at the Wesleyan College Invitational. She won the race in 18:51.73.

Also, sophomore Emile Barnett won the 500 meter dash at the same event, breaking his own record in a time of 1:05.59.

u The College of Saint Rose finished third in the women’s division and fourth in the men’s division at the Northeast-10 Conference Swimming & Diving Championships.

Freshman Caitlin Peterson broke her own school record in the 500 freestyle by placing second in 5:18.13, freshman Hilary Stanmyer broke her own school standard in the 100 breaststroke (1:10.12), and Stephanie Schuyler was third in the 100 backstroke in 1:02.39.

Shenendehowa graduate Ryan Brauer broke two of his own school records and was part of three relay teams that recorded top-three performances.

u University at Albany, which has won the America East Conference lacrosse championship in four of the last six seasons, has announced its schedule for next spring.

The Great Danes host Denver Feb. 21 and also play defending national champion Syracuse April 17 at the Carrier Dome, as well as perennial national powers Johns Hopkins (April 4) and Princeton (March 20). Albany has 28 letterwinners returning.

u UAlbany (9-3) became the first Northeast Conference champion to win the Gridiron Classic with a 28-0 victory over Jacksonville last weekend.

Bob Ford recorded his 225th career win as UAlbany’s head coach, and Gridiron Classic MVP David McCarty (LaSalle Institute) ran for 271 yards, the second-highest rushing total in school history. He eclipsed Gary Jones’ single-season standard for all-purpose yards (2,208) and added to his school-record rushing total (1,852).

He ranks No. 2 in rushing (154.3 yards/game) and is tied for fourth in all-purpose yards (184.0 ypg) among the NCAA leaders .

u Two former Notre Dame-Bishop Gibbons volleyball players helped their respective colleges reach postseason play this season.

Kelsie Wilson, a freshman libero for Russell Sage, helped the Gators win the Skyline Conference and reach the NCAA Tournament by posting 306 digs with 33 service aces.

Angie Mifsud, a sophomore outside hitter for Iona, had 46 digs for the Gaels, who earned a spot in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference tournament.

HONOR ROLL

UNIVERSITY AT ALBANY

Michelle Simpson was named an ECAC Division I field hockey all-star. The America East Conference Midfielder of the Year was an NFHCA Division I All-American for the second time and scored 10 goals and 12 assists.

RPI

Seniors Eren Savasli (wideout) and Patrick McCarthy (return specialist/wideout) have been named to the D3football.com All-Region third team. Savasli led the Engineers with 815 reeiving yards and nine touchdowns on 45 catches. The Liberty League first-team all-star averaed 18.1 yards per grab. McCarthy returned 21 kickoffs for 576 yards (27.4 average) and returned three punts for 49 yards (16.3 average). He also had 72 catches for 755 yards and six touchdowns.

SKIDMORE

Rachel Sushner, Meghan Sleezer (Gloversville) and Lindsay Schmitt were named to the National Soccer Coaches Association of America All-New York Region team. Sushner, a first-team selection, led the Thoroughbreds in scoring with 10 goals and four assists. Sleezer, a second-team choice, picked up a league-best 10 shutouts in goal. Schmitt, a third-team member in the backfield, helped the Thoroughbreds’ stingy defense allow just eight goals in 22 games.

SUNY-BROCKPORT

Junior Matt Mangona (Saratoga Springs) was named to the State University of New York Athletic Conference Chancellor’s Scholar-Athlete team. He was sixth on the taem with 49 tackles, and also had two tackles for a loss and a fumble recovery.

MERRIMACK

Senior Greg Rogowski (Christian Brothers Academy) was named to the Inside Lacrosse Magacine’s Face Off Yearbook Presason All-American first team for the third time. Rogowski’s 229 career points make him the top active scorer in Division II.

COLLEGE OF SAINT ROSE

Golden Knights’ head coach Andrew Rickert was named the Northeast-10 Conference Women’s Cross Country Coach of the Year. The Golden Knights were fifth at the NCAA East Regional Championships.

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