The swimming and diving teams look to leave this weekend’s MAAC Championships the same way they entered: as the No. 1 team in the conference.
After finishing second three years in a row, the team is aiming to improve that in the only way possible: with a win.
However, before the competition gets under way, the team has a tradition to uphold.
A few weeks before the MAACs every year, male members of the swimming and diving team get together and bleach each other’s hair. Then, a day or so before MAACs start, they shave their heads into various patterns or styles.
Dylan Korn, a senior diving captain, has experienced this tradition for four years.
“We don’t force anyone to do it,” Korn said. “Its something the guys do to get psyched up for MAACs. It’s just fun to do and it gets all of us in a room together. Almost like team bonding. Then, when we walk into MAACs with mohawks and stuff, it’s kind of intimidating for the other teams.”
No one is quite sure just how long the tradition has been going on, but Head Coach Steve Fletcher, who has been coaching swimmers since 1992, explains that this is a fairly common tradition in the swimming world.
“They’ve been doing it the seven years that I’ve been here,” Fletcher said. “But I’ve never seen a team bleach their hair before they shave it I guess that’s just unique of Rider.”
Traditions aside, the team’s main goal is to come out of the championships on top. A win at the MAAC Championships is a feat that neither the men’s nor the women’s team has accomplished since the men took first in 2003-2004.
In order for the team to get back to the top this year, they will have to beat defending champion and perennial powerhouse Marist, something they were able to do this season at home on Nov. 3.
Beating a champion takes hard work and passion, something senior swimmer Stephanie Cosentino knows her teammates have.
“I think the team is going to do really well,” Cosentino said. “We’ve trained so hard and everyone is just really excited and pumped up to go to MAACs. Especially the freshmen. It’s their first time so they don’t know what to expect.”
Seniors like Cosentino and Korn have been a part of the previous three teams that finished in second place and are hoping that this will be the year they come out on top.
“It’s my senior year,” Cosentino said. “I want to go out with a bang.”
Fletcher knows his team has what it takes. He’s witnessed a positive transformation over his seven-year tenure with them.
“We’re one of three schools that has the opportunity to win the conference,” Fletcher said. “When I first started here, Marist was the team to beat. Over the past seven years we’ve crept up and Loyola has improved as well. Three teams in the mix makes it exciting. It’s going to be a good weekend.”