Men And Women’s Swimming Set Sights On A New Standard Of Excellence

Men And Women’s Swimming Set Sights On A New Standard Of Excellence

Coming off one of the most successful seasons in program history during the 2009-10 season, the Elms College men and women’s swim teams are poised to build on that success and set a new standard of excellence in 2010-11.

Seventh-year head coach Bill Tyler leads a men’s team that won a school record six dual meets, and finished in a program-best seventh place at the season-ending New England Intercollegiate Swimming and Diving Association (NEISDA) Championship meet. He also directed a highly successful women’s squad that finished in second place at the Great Northeast Athletic Conference (GNAC) Championships, and placed 13th at the NEISDA Championships. Elms also won a program-best nine dual meets this season, including six straight to end the season prior to the NEISDA Championships. Coach Tyler was also named GNAC Coach of the Year for the third time in six years.

This season, the Blazers will look to build on that success.

Men’s Team

The men’s team returns six swimmers to the pool deck this winter including senior captain Nick Whitman (Florence, Mass.) and junior captain Garrett Brune (Lakeville, Mass.). During the 2009 NEISDA Championships, Whitman helped the 400-yard medley relay team clock a new school record, while Brune captured two individual records and competed on three of Elms’ four record-setting relay squads.

 Zach LeBarron (Bennington, Vt.) returns for his junior season after notching three individual records in the sprint races at the three-day NEISDA event in addition to swimming a leg on each of the Blazers’ four achieving relay teams. Sophomore Mark Gehring (West Springfield, Mass.) was also instrumental during the competition as he was part of all four record-setting relay squads.

Juniors Neil Carney (West Haven, Conn.) and Mike Desmond (Nashua, N.H.) round out a stellar corps of upperclassmen, while freshmen Keegan Goan (Westbrook, Maine), Aaron Starke (Chicopee, Mass.) and junior newcomer Aaron Coifman (Caracas, Venezuela) will provide tremendous depth to a small but highly talented team.

Women’s Team

Senior Theresa Pitassi (Naugatuck, Conn.) and junior Katie Roberts (Torrington, Conn.) will captain a women’s squad that consists of 12 returners and 12 newcomers.

The Blazers also return 2009-10 GNAC Rookie of the Year sophomore Tessa Dudunake (Northampton, Mass.), three-time GNAC Swimmer of the Week junior Ashley Arbo (Kensington, Conn.) and one-time GNAC Swimmer of the Week Chalis Bird (Windsor, Mass.).

At the GNAC Championships, Dudunake set a new meet record and Simmons College pool record in the 100-yard individual medley, and also set an individual school record, while the team of Bird, Arbo, Dudunake and Pitassi clocked a new GNAC record in the 400-yard freestyle relay.

At the NEISDA Championships, Elms set and reset a total of 11 school records including seven individual marks and four relay records. Dudunake claimed three individual records and was a part of all four relay record setting squads, Bird set two individual records, and Arbo clocked a new mark in the 200-yard backstroke. Both Bird and Arbo competed on all four of the Blazers’ record-breaking squads.

Pitassi played a role on three of the four record-setting relay teams, while sophomore Emalee Furtek (Ludlow, Mass.) helped the 200-yard medley relay team to its new school mark.

Seniors Dariana Diaz (Dorchester, Mass.) and Alison McBride (East Providence, R.I.), juniors Sonia Vaz (Randolph, Mass.) and Marissa Yeager (Dunbarton, N.H.) and sophomores Melissa Bara (Westfield, Mass.) and Tricia Ruell (Chicopee, Mass.) will each provide tremendous depth, skill and experience in various events this season.

Among the twelve newcomers to the team, Devon DeGrazia (Westport, Mass.) and Ashley Kirchner (Dalton, Mass.) will look to provide an immediate impact for the Blazers as both will challenge school records early on this season.

Gabrielle Calvanese (Agawam, Mass.), Kelly Gilhooly (Bloomfield, Conn.), Caitlyn Janchuk (Pittsfield, Mass.), Stephanie Konstantinidis (Holyoke, Mass.), Julia Lane (West Springfield, Mass.), Kasey Leslie (Pittsfield, Mass.), Samantha Noel (Durham, Conn.), Jaileen Portalatin (Hartford, Conn.), Emily Schneider (West Kingston, R.I.) and Abigail Wingfield (Florence, Mass.) round out a 12-swimmer freshman class. 

Question and Answer with Coach Tyler
Q.) Talk about the depth of the women’s squad heading into the 2010-11 season?
Theresa Pitassi, a senior captain and all-GNAC swimmer, will be contributing a great deal in the freestyle events. Also in the senior class and contributing in a lot of different events are Dariana Diaz and Alison McBride. The junior class is led by Ashley Arbo, the school record holder in the 200-meter backstroke. She is an All-GNAC swimmer that is very versatile. Captain Katie Roberts also returns. She was second in the 50-breaststroke at the GNAC Championships last season. She is a solid performer for us. From the sophomore class, Chalis Bird is a terrific sprinter and is also an All-GNAC swimmer. GNAC Rookie of the Year Tessa Dudunake is also returning. She is a great breaststroker and freestyler. Emalee Furtek is another All-GNAC swimmer – a good butterflier, and Tricia Ruell is a good backstroker. Melissa Bara will also provide tremendous depth to the corps of sophomores.

Q.) Which newcomers on the women’s side will play an immediate role in the success of the team?
Right off the bat Devon DeGrazia could be a school record setter in freestyle events and would be a huge boost for the relays. Ashley Kirchner is a solid all around swimmer and has the potential to be a school record setter. Strong events for her are breaststroke and freestyle but she can do just about anything. After those two freshmen I have a group of swimmers consisting of Julia Lane, Emily Schneider, Caitlyn Janchuk, and Gabrielle Calvanese that has the potential to step it up and be the backbone of the team in terms of covering events and adding solid depth to the team that we really haven’t had in the past.

Q.) Which swimmers have improved the most since last season?
I can’t wait to see Ashley Arbo in action. I don’t know whether it’s the addition of the two freshmen Ashley and Devon, but it should be exciting to see how she does competing with them during practices and meets. We have groups of swimmers that are suited for each other, like Ashley [Arbo], Ashley [Kirchner] and Devon. They push each other to be successful everyday and I think that some of the women may be motivating some of the guys to give it that extra effort. This team has the potential to be the best we’ve ever had.

Q.) Six of the nine swimmers on the men’s team are not only returners but four are juniors. Comment on how the experience of this squad will factor in to the season?
I am looking for those upperclassmen to be good leaders, give a high level performance. Nick Whitman is our senior captain and Garrett Brune is our junior captain. Zach LeBarron, Neil Carney and Mike Desmond round out a group of experienced juniors. Mark Gehring also fits nicely into the mix having had a year of experience under his belt.

Q.) How will the three male newcomers mesh with an already stellar group of returners?
Aaron Starke is a very good sprinter so he is going to be a great addition to the shorter relays. I also think he is going to be the one that pushes Zach in practice which will provide us with a nice one-two punch in meets. It will also allow us to free Zach up to do some other events. Keegan Goan should be setting butterfly records this year and his speed and depth is a huge plus for our relays as well. 

Q.) Though down in numbers compared to recent years, comment on what this men’s team will bring to the table in 2010-11.
We do have some decent talent. We have some upperclassmen and freshmen that for the size team we have is very competitive and talented. There is a lot of reserved excitement on my part so we will see what happens as the season unfolds.

Q.) What is one challenge that the team needs to overcome this year in order to be productive?
The biggest hurdle we have is academic class conflicts. I am relying on my swimmers that have those conflicts to make the effort to work out on their own. That’s really the biggest challenge we face to being successful because if the kids aren’t training, it will show in the pool. They are students first. I always worry about their academics and if they are struggling, that they take the right steps to turn it around.