Two years in the America East, two conference championship trophies on display in the Retriever Activities Center lobby.
Add that to four Northeast Conference titles and six Eastern College Athletic Conference crowns, and you get a team that has dominated its competition for the last eight seasons.
Meet the UMBC men’s swimming and diving squad.
Last season, Head Coach Chad Cradock and his coaching staff – assistants Tom Himes and Chris Gibeau and diving coach Andrew Hastings – guided the Retrievers to the school’s first-ever undefeated season in any sport with a 10-0 dual meet record, as well as its eighth consecutive conference title, including its second straight in the America East. The team broke its own league record for most points in the championship meet with 920 after setting it the previous season, UMBC’s first in the AEC, at 901. The Retrievers produced conference champions in seven events, including six individual and one relay, and the four coaches as a unit were named America East Men’s Coaching Staff of the Year.
“Last year was a pretty successful year, obviously,” Cradock said. “We were well-rounded; we had some great individuals - some great senior standouts, all the way down to our freshmen - which contributed to the success of the team.”
Cradock expects more success in 2005-06, but the Retrievers will have to overcome the loss of several key swimmers, including Jakub Sroczynski, an eight-time conference champion who graduated in 2005. The coach hopes the veterans and incoming class will be able to step up and fill the voids left by Sroczynski and the others.
Sprint Freestyle: Junior Tim Conway was the Retrievers’ top sprinter in 2004-05, as he finished fifth in the 50-free at AEC’s. “Tim got a lot stronger last year and improved a lot in dual meets,” Cradock said. “It would be nice to see him take it to the next level this year.” Cradock also looks to freshmen Justin Bronson and Josh Nachman to make an immediate impact. Sophomore Scott Auchter and freshmen Milos Djukic, Peter Sterba and Kyle Wisor should also contribute in the sprints.
Mid Freestyle: Adam Blais returns for his senior season after taking bronze in the 200-free at the conference championships last season, and is expected to lead the Retrievers both in and out of the pool as a co-captain. “We’re going to rely heavily on Adam,” Cradock said. Senior co-captain Geza Szabo and freshmen Freddie Reitz and Evan Roseberry are expected to be factors in the 500-free, while Bronson and Reitz are also strong in the 200. Junior Cliff Schmardel finished sixth in the 500 at AEC’s last season and should step up as well. Wisor, senior Joe Raymond, sophomores Joey Sementelli and Adam Eiben and junior transfer Juan Ortiz are also expected to contribute.
Distance Freestyle: Junior Ryan Karrer returns after winning the 2005 America East title in the 1,650-free and taking silver in the 500-free, in addition to capturing gold in both events at the 2005 ECAC’s. A four-time medalist at the AEC championships, he should pick up where he left off. “Ryan has really led the team in the distance events,” Cradock said. “He has pulled through when we needed him most. This year we need him to do the same.” Schmardel placed fourth in the mile at AEC’s last season and is expected to make strong contributions. They will be helped out by Roseberry, Sementelli and Raymond.
Backstroke: Backstroke is where Sroczynski will be missed the most, and Cradock is looking for the swimmer who can step up and fill his shoes. Junior Nebojsa Zimonjic finished third and fourth in the 100- and 200-back, respectively, at the conference meet, while Conway took fourth in the 100 and junior co-captain Brian Jaeggi placed fifth in the 200, and Cradock hopes the trio can help fill the void. Cradock also expects big contributions from Djukic, while sophomore Eric Skrabacz came in fifth in the 100-back and sophomore Alejandro Lopez took sixth in the 200 at AEC’s and should help out as well.
Breaststroke: Cradock expects strong competition for the top breaststroke spot from Reitz, Auchter, senior Ian Carey, junior Pat Woodward and sophomore Andrew Cheung. “One of these guys has to really come out of his shell and take initiative for the breaststroke,” Cradock said. Carey placed fifth in the 200-breast and ninth in the 100 at AEC’s last season, while Cheung finished 11th in the 200.
Butterfly: Szabo, the school record-holder and two-time defending America East champion in the 200-fly, will again lead the butterfly unit. “Geza’s tremendous in the fly,” Cradock said. “He gives his all in the water and we will continue to count on him.” Skrabacz will also play a large role, as he placed fourth in both fly events at AEC’s last season. Cradock expects Nachman and Bronson to step up and be a factor here, as well. Lopez, Sterba and junior John Saums should also contribute.
Individual Medley: The IM will be anchored by Blais, who won the 200 at AEC’s last season. Eiben scored in the 400 at the conference meet, taking sixth place, and Cradock expects him and Ortiz to step up as well. Skrabacz, Woodward, Zimonjic, Cheung, Carey and Jaeggi should also help out.
Diving: Junior Jeff Salgado broke the school 3-meter record last season and was a two-time America East Diver of the Week honoree. He will receive assistance from sophomore Colin Weick, who makes the switch to the boards this season after a year as a freestyler for the Retrievers.
The season begins Oct. 22, when the Retrievers travel to Rider for their first dual meet. Other schedule highlights include Navy, which is always a close meet, at home on Oct. 29; America East foe Binghamton on the road Nov. 5; the George Mason Invitational Nov. 18-20; and East Carolina on Jan. 22. The America East Conference Championships are Feb. 16-19 in Boston.