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Towson reclaims conference title

Towson’s women’s swimming and diving team avenged last season’s disappointing second place finish by re-capturing the Colonial Athletic Association Championship at this past week’s meet.

The women narrowly edged James Madison with a 783.5 to the Dukes’ 735.5 final score.

“I think there was a complacency with some of the people last year. They just thought, we’ll win, we’ll win, we’ll win, and we probably didn’t do the work we needed to and it resulted in a poor end-of-the-year performances,” Head Coach Pat Mead said. “I definitely think the leadership we had this year was much better. And the work ethic. One thing that’s different from this team, even from the years past that have won, this team, every single girl who went to the meet scored. They actually scored points at the Championship.”

Junior Kaitlin Burke led the way for Towson. She was named one of the Most Outstanding Co-Swimmers of the Meet, along with UNC-Wilmington’s Carly Tanner.

Burke finished first in the 500 freestyle with a time 4:43.53, in the 200 freestyle with a 1:46.69, and in 1650 freestyle with a 16:18.44. She also contributed to multiple relay teams.

“Her meet was the best meet of her life. But I’m not surprised,” Mead said. “Sometimes you do all the work but just not get the payout, but she definitely did the work this year. I was very happy for her because I knew she put the time and the work and the commitment into the last 12 months to have it culminate the way it did.”

Burke is now waiting to hear whether she qualifies for the NCAA meet. Mead said the team should know within the week.

Mead also praised junior Melanie Rowland’s meet. Individually, she finished third in the 500 freestyle with a 4:50.57, third in the 100 butterfly with a 54.73, and dropped to second place last second in the 200 butterfly with a 1:59.06. She was edged out by James Madison’s Andrea Criscuolo who had a 1:58.92.

“She had an unbelievable meet. And she’s another person, again, who had lifetime-best performances across the board, lights out. It would have been great if she could have won the 200 fly,” Mead said. “She had a great summer going to Olympic trials and competing in Olympic trials. I think her next thing on her bucket list was, ‘I want to make NCAAs.’ Right now it looks like she’s going to miss having qualified by five hundredths of a second. It’s nothing. It’s a fingernail. And that’s going to keep her out of NCAAs.”

The Tigers had multiple solo stars, but the unsung heroes of the diving team clinched the victory. Sophomore Lyndsey Dickson placed second on the three meter dive with a 276.20 score and freshman Natalee Szopo placed third in the one meter dive with a 260.50.

Szopo’s score was the highest any diver has ever placed at that height, Mead said, and Dickson’s finish was also the highest a Towson diver has placed at CAAs.

The men’s team didn’t have as much luck, finishing sixth with 290 points, but Mead said he was proud of the team’s performance because of its vast improvement over last year’s race.

“Last year they only scored 160, this year we were 290, so we almost doubled the score from last year, and that is, in large part, due to the freshman and sophomore classes that we’ve brought in,” he said. “They continue to improve, we’ve got a better class coming in, and I credit our upper classmen.”

One of the stars for the men’s team was senior Zack Stone. He finished fourth in the 500 freestyle with a 4:28.55.

“Zach Stone had unbelievable meet, he broke a school record in the 500 free, which sat for 30 years. To go out as a senior in that fashion is unbelievable,” Mead said. “It’s kids like that that didn’t quit, they got better and better and better, and as they got better, they continue to help us recruit better kids to come in.”

Mead was honored after the meet as the Women’s Swimming Coach of the Year. But he brushed off the reward, saying he earned the honor because of the team.

“Those awards are nice, and it’s a great honor to have the other coaches in the conference recognize our team success,” he said. “But that kind of an award isn’t an award for me, it’s a reflection of what our team did.”

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