BALTIMORE, MD. – The UMBC swimming and diving teams travel to Boston this weekend for the America East Championships held at Boston University. A year ago, the Retrievers swept the conference championships, with the men and women both bringing home top team honors. The men's squad has won the America East title eight straight years, and a conference championship in each of the last 14 seasons, while the women are looking for their second straight victory and fourth championship in six seasons.
Senior Abbey McKenney (Wilmington, Del./Brandywine), last year's Most Outstanding Female swimmer will lead the women's squad. At the 2011 America East Championships, McKenney won three individual gold medals, in addition to anchoring the 200 free relay to a gold and a pool record. In the 100 free, she set a pool, UMBC, and America East record with a time of 49.66. This season, McKenney has won six events during the dual season and helped the Retrievers to claim ten relay wins.
The Retrievers will also look to junior Jennifer Kotonias (Burtonsville, Md./Academy of Holy Cross) in their attempt at a repeat. Last year, Kotonias won the 400 IM while placing second and third in the 200 IM and 200 butterfly, respectively. During the 2011-12 season, the junior has won eight individual events, with five of the victories coming in the 200 fly.
In addition, a strong contingent of upperclassmen will contribute to the Retrievers' repeat effort. Senior captains Ashley Miller (New Smyrna Beach, Fla./New Smyrna Beach) and Laura Tilman (Miami, Fla./Ransom Evergaldes) have championship experience and have performed well this season, winning three events combined.
In addition, senior Ashley Sippel (Rockville, Md./Thomas Wootton) placed eighth in the 200 free last year and has claimed that event twice this year in the dual season.
For the men, the Retrievers' attempt for a ninth straight America East crown will be led by a combination of veterans and championship meet newcomers.
Junior Pierre De Waal (Pretoria, South Africa/Tuks Sport) was a two-time individual event winner a year ago, claiming a gold medal in both the 500 and 1,650 free events. He also helped the 800 free relay team break pool, meet and school records while claiming gold. During the 2011-12 season, De Waal has picked up a team-high ten dual meet wins.
Last year's 200 backstroke champion, Johan Rohtla (Tallinn, Estonia/Tallinn Secondary Science), also returns for the Retrievers looking to defend his title.
And while UMBC has plenty of experience, a pair of newcomers also look to make a mark at the championships. Mid-year transfer Mohamed Hussein (Cairo, Egypt/Victory College) made quite an impact in the second half of the Retrievers' season, winning eight events in just three meets. For his efforts, Hussein was twice named the America East Male Swimmer of the Week.
Freshman Lauri Kaei (Harjumaa, Estonia/Tallinn Secondary Science) will also be a factor for UMBC at his first America East meet. In his first season in Baltimore, Kaei picked up seven wins during the dual meet season.
The four day meet begins Thurs., Feb 23 at 10 a.m. and continues Friday through Saturday at the Boston University Aquatic Center. Check out the UMBC Dawg Blog for live updates from this weekend's action in Boston.