The Allegheny Women’s and Men’s Swimming and Diving teams are competing in this season’s North Coast Athletic Conference Championships, which began on Wednesday, Feb. 12, and lasts until Saturday, Feb. 15, at Denison University in Granville, Ohio.
The women’s team capped off their undefeated season with a 188-48 victory over Fredonia State University on Jan. 25. The team finished the season 7-0, a mark that Alyson Codner, ’20, said was significant to the team.
“It meant a lot (to go undefeated) because we put in so much work,” Codner said. “To really get that reward, to know that all the hard work we put in paid off, really meant a lot.”
The women’s swimming and diving team will have eight graduating members in 2020. Riley Aul, ’20, said she was excited about the undefeated season as the team prepared for conferences.
“I think it’s really awesome to be a part of the team for my last year while we go undefeated,” Aul said. “It sets us up for the potential to reach third in our conference. It’s super exciting to be involved and a part of that process.”
The Gators finished fifth in the NCAC last season, and according to Head Coach Max Niggel and Aul, the team is projected to finish third in the conference but would be happy to improve to fourth.
Despite the team’s success through the season, Niggel said that the team understands that their ultimate goal to improve their conference record has yet to be achieved.
“Right now we’re all excited for them and proud about it, but we’re gearing up for conferences which we’ve trained for the whole year,” Niggel said. “We’re all very excited and very nervous. It’s an emotional thing when you swim a season as long and demanding as ours and then it all comes down to a few days.”
Kenyon College’s Women’s Swimming and Diving team has won the conference the past two seasons. Kenyon ranked at the top of the conference from 1985-2003, 2005-’08, 2016 and 2018-’19. Denison has claimed the top spot every other season since 1985.
Allegheny is projected to finish third behind these schools for the first time since 2011. DePauw University claimed the third spot a season ago followed by Wooster College. Allegheny defeated Wooster 163-131 on Jan. 18.
The Gators entered conferences looking to maintain their successful season. According to Codner, the undefeated season has prepared members of the team for their difficult conference championships.
“This season, we have had a lot of high energy and winning all these meets has really gotten us excited for (conferences),” Codner said. “I think we’re more excited this year. We’re closer and the team has a good atmosphere.”
Aul also credited the team’s excitement and energy for her optimism heading into the end of the season.
“The team has built up their attitude (of winning) with each meet,” Aul said. “Having win after win after win, everyone gets more excited and pumped up for the next meet and the opportunity to continue that streak of wins. I’m super excited to see how that brings us through conferences.”
The Gators are in position to improve their fifth-place ranking in the conference, but Niggel said that the team’s success will not be measured by their final results. Instead, he said that if they continue to bond as a team and support one another, conferences will be a success.
Niggel credited the class of 2020 for the team’s improved culture over his first two years as head swimming coach.
“The class of 2020 has seen the program go through a lot of changes,” Niggel said. “They have been able to guide and mentor the underclassmen through all these changes and (showed them) what it means to be Allegheny students, swimmers and divers.”
Along with cementing their undefeated season against Fredonia, the women’s team celebrated their Senior Day on Jan. 25. Among the Gators swimming in their last meet at the Mellon Pool in the Wise Center were Codner and Aul.
“(The end of the season) is really bittersweet,” Codner said. “I’ve been swimming for so long, so the fact that it’s coming to an end is really exciting, but also sad and hard to grapple with.”
Aul echoed the bittersweet sentiment as she prepared for her final NCAC championship meet.
“It’s exciting that (my swimming career) is almost done because I’m proud that I completed all four years on the team, especially this season,” Aul said. “But it is sad that the sport that I’ve done all of my life is almost done. I’m excited though to see how I do at conferences for my last couple swims.”
With eight members of the women’s team graduating, the team will look to bring in a strong recruiting class in 2021. Codner said the team’s success this season could help to bring in strong swimmers and divers.
While there is optimism for the future of the team, Niggel said that the class of 2020 will be irreplaceable.
“What (the seniors) have all meant to this team on an individual level will be really hard to replace,” Niggel said. “One of the hardest parts about coaching for me is that you develop all of these relationships and connections with your student athletes and then they have to move on after four years. That’s a hard goodbye to say. We’ll miss them as people and we’ll certainly miss them for how talented they were and the times that they swam.”
The team will wrap up conferences on Saturday, Feb. 15, and will have their final meet at the Kenyon Fast Chance hosted by Kenyon in Gambier, Ohio, on Feb. 22.
In preparation for conferences, Niggel had a final message for the team.
“The work is done,” Niggel said. “We’re just tightening up the last few things. (The team should) stay positive and stay proud of everything they’ve done this year. We’re in position to strike, and all we need to do is seal the deal. We’re ready to go. We just have to take what’s ours.”