by Jeremy Perrigo ’18
February has come at last, and for the Providence College Men’s and Women’s Swimming and Diving Team, this marks the end of a rigorous six months of training and competition that began back in early September.
The Men’s and Women’s Swimming and Diving teams travel to Geneva, Ohio on Feb. 21 for four days in the pool in a six-way battle against Big East conference rivals Seton Hall University, Georgetown University, Villanova University, Xavier University, and Butler University for the Big East Championship.
For a few Friars, this competition marks the last of their collegiate career. Alexandra Kartsounis ’18 shared her thoughts on what it will take to find success in Ohio, “Definitely working together, staying together, keep each other in a positive situation because it is a four-day-long meet and we have prelims in the morning, finals in the afternoon. It is just a lot going on and chemistry I think is really important.”
Leadership is an important aspect of any sports team, and as freshmen go on to become seniors, their roles change. When questioned about how her responsibility on the team has changed, Kartsounis had a few words to add about her fellow teammates, saying “It definitely puts you in a leadership position. I am not captain this year. My captains are Erin Cunningham ’18 and Katie Fallon ’18 and they both do an excellent job leading the team.” She went on to note that leadership can be found across the board, “I think it is important for all the seniors to kind of take that leadership role, and I think everyone does a pretty good job doing that. Mostly just lead by example and keep a positive attitude, I think is really important.”
The Friars are trying to use the championship to rebound from a disappointing loss in their last competition, a tri-meet against Georgetown and Seton Hall, “We all raced pretty well, but we lost to both teams. I think that meet is pretty difficult for our team just because it is so close to our championships so we have all been beaten down by training really hard. But overall I think everyone pulled through and had some pretty good times.”
When asked if a single team stood out from the rest going into the competition, Kartsounis, who specializes in backstroke and butterfly, pointed to one school in particular. “Butler is our closest competition; all the other schools are pretty strong but we always go and race our hardest.”
She also mentioned a group of Friars that she believes do not get enough credit for the boost they add to final scores: the divers. “The divers are super important to us because they contribute to the pointing scales.” She mentioned one teammate in particular. “Kendall Jerzyk ’18 made Big East and she is one of the top [divers] on the diving team and I do not think people give her enough credit. She gives us a bump up in our pointing scale,” Kartsounis said.
While cohesion amongst teammates is important, coaching plays just as integral a role, and good coaching is essential for any team that hopes to be successful. Kartsounis elaborated on the impact her coaches have had on her swimming career. She began with the man in charge, saying, “Our head coach John O’Neill is great, he has led our team through some good wins and tough losses but definitely kept us going through.”
Not forgotten is the impact of assistant coaches. “I also want to give note to Ken Reall, we got him my sophomore year I believe and he has a great swim background, great resume, and overall just a really good person and great motivator. I definitely think he has had a big impact on my swimming career here,” Kartsounis added.
The Friars have high hopes for the week ahead. For some athletes, the event marks the beginning of more to come. For this group of seniors, it presents the opportunity to put an exclamation point on an eventful four years.