Leo Hainline ’22
The Providence College Swimming and Diving team took on the University of Connecticut on Saturday, Feb. 5 in a dual meet, the final chance to clock in official times ahead of the Big East Championships occurring later this month.
PC’s men’s and women’s teams raced under different circumstances, given that UConn has recently cut their men’s program. Many on the men’s team utilized this meet as an opportunity to receive more practice under race-like conditions, although they were racing against the clock rather than an opponent. As for the women, this meet gave them the opportunity to swim in events needed to qualify for the Big East Championships scheduled for Feb. 23-26. For some of the seniors, this meet was their final time competing for the Friars.
The implications of the UConn meet varied for the individual swimmers across the Friars’ program, but those who needed these races to qualify for the Big East “suited up,” a swimming term referring to wearing a technical race suit to increase performance, and swam with the pressure of knowing these races could conclude their individual seasons or collegiate careers. Mike Hawkins ’22 and Elizabeth Murray ’23 both delivered big performances this past weekend and qualified for Big East due to their times.
Angela Brillantes ’22, one of the swimmers who will be competing in the coming weeks in East Meadow, NY, is confident that this past weekend has provided a good prelude to the Big East for the Friars: “After last year’s huge wins, the expectations are definitely pretty high and I think we’re in a good position to do some great things. The energy from this weekend was insane, watching the entire team support swimmers trying to qualify or finish up their careers. The energy levels and emotion were crazy, seeing everyone step up for each other this weekend, and it’s exciting to think that it’ll just be a million times crazier at Big East.”
Over the next coming weeks, the Friars will be fully focused on ensuring that they are in the best condition for their biggest meet of the season. Unlike over winter break, during which the teams trained twice a day to build up their conditioning and speed, the swimmers will lighten their schedules so their bodies are fully rested ahead for late February.
Last year, the Friars impressed at the Big East Championships, setting a total of 21 program records. Coach John O’Neill won Big East Coach of the Year: his first time receiving the honor. Justin Viotto ’22 won the 200 Fly with a school record of 1:48:23, and Kevin Hood ’23 also set a school record in his first-place finish in the 100 Breaststroke, with a time of 55:52. These student-athletes constitute two of the three Big East Champions in program history.
Both Viotto and Hood, as well as the entire Friars program, will hope to both replicate and expand on the success that they enjoyed in the 2021 Championships. With many returning swimmers who contributed to the Friars’ success during the previous season in the meet, do not be surprised if the team claims multiple accolades at the Big East Championships.