By Brandon Scalea
The men’s swimming and diving team continued dominating its conference, winning its sixth-straight MAAC Championship since 2012.
In the four-day conference tournament held at Erie Community College from Feb. 8-11, the Rider men steamrolled to the title, earning 840.5 total points while breaking two MAAC records on the final day. There was a significant disparity between the Broncs and second-place Marist, which finished with 635 points.
On the women’s side, Rider finished in second place for the 15th time in 19 years, with a total of 616 points. Marist took the crown, totaling 810 points.
Freshman diver Meg Tomayko said her first collegiate season was a memorable one, especially after watching the men’s team rack up championships before she even came to Rider.
“I’m glad I’ve been able to experience the success first-hand this season,” she said. “It has been an unforgettable year and I can’t wait for the next three.”
For the second time in his three-year career, junior Zack Molloy earned Most Outstanding Swimmer of the Meet honors, thanks in large part to his role in shattering two records. On Feb. 14, he was also handed the prestigious honor of National Male Swimmer of the Week by collegesmimming.com, the second time he’s earned this feat.
In the 100-free, he eased his way to a time of 43.47, taking gold and putting his name in the history books. At the 2016 MAAC Championships, Molloy also broke the conference record in the 200-free with a time of 1:36.47.
Molloy was also part of this year’s 400-relay quartet that finished in first and broke the conference mark.
The other three members of the relay team were sophomore Vincent Gibbons and seniors William Molloy and Matthan Martir. The team’s time of 2:59.18 was four seconds faster than Marist. The same four Rider athletes took gold in this event last year.
In the final meet of the season, freshman Justin Carey continued to have an impressive run and was one of two Rider athletes to earn Rookie of the Meet honors. Freshman Natalie Carter earned this award for the women after a victory in the 200-back.
Tomayko was named Freshman Diver of the Meet.
“The award shows that the hard work and rough times this season have paid off,” Tomayko said. “Getting this honor means that I’m going to have to strive for bigger dives and higher scores on them for next season.”
Carey took first place in the 200-back with a time of 1:48.60, with sophomore Luke Musselman at his heels for a close second (1:49.92). The duo earned the Broncs 17 points.
“It’s been pretty great,” Musselman said. “Winning has become a tradition here at Rider and I couldn’t be happier to contribute to the success. My goals moving forward are just to continue our dominance in dual meets and keep our streak alive. We want to win another title next year.”
Another Rider rookie made significant contributions, with freshman Cole May finishing first in the 200-fly. Senior Sam Cramer won the 1650-free for the second consecutive season (15:27.72).
Also for the men, Gibbons finished second in the 100-free right behind Zack Molloy, with a time of 45.06. The Broncs had two other swimmers in the top four of that event.
In the 1650-free, senior Michael Regan finished seventh.
For the women, freshman Casey Wrabley came in first place in the 200-fly with a time of 2:07.88, earning Rider 20 points. Junior Hannah Bayer finished top-eight in the same race, earning the Broncs another 11 points.
In the women’s 100-free, senior Ariana Palmer finished third (52.49). In the 200-breaststroke, the Broncs had two top-three finishes: juniors Julianna Runk and Tara Maniace, respectively. The women’s 400-relay team finished third overall (3:32.63). The team was made up of Palmer, Wrabley, Carter and freshman Olivia Iswalt.
Tomayko said it’s only a matter of time before the women get over the second-place hump and earn a title of their own.
“Every year, we’ve been getting closer and closer to first place,” she said. “To achieve this, we’ve just been working together and becoming more of a family.”
At the men’s tournament, Bryant, Canisius and Iona, respectively, were tightly bunched to round out the top five. The Golden Griffins, the Gaels and the Niagara Purple Eagles followed second-place Rider on the women’s side.
On March 3-5, Rider will compete in the ECAC Championships hosted by the United States Naval Academy.
Musselman said the team’s closeness is what makes it special.
“Our team spirit makes us different,” he said. “We are always behind each other and we support each other during every race. That connection makes us a family.”