BALTIMORE – The UMBC swimming and diving teams head to Orono, Maine this weekend for the America East Championships looking to reclaim their spot atop the conference standings after falling just short a year ago in Boston. The 2013 conference meet will be hosted by the University of Maine at the Stanley M. Wallace Pool beginning on Thursday, Feb. 14 and running through the weekend.
Last year, the meet host Terriers snapped the UMBC men's streak of eight-straight league titles while also pushing the women's squad from the top spot. After a strong dual meet season, however, the Retrievers look poised to take back the top team honors.
The men's team completed just its second-ever undefeated dual meet season by racing past East Carolina, 168-132, on Senior Day back on Jan. 26 at the UMBC Aquatic Complex. During the year, the Retrievers also posted their first win over Navy since 2004, in addition to gaining wins over Old Dominion and George Washington.
A superb team effort paced the Retrievers all year as the squad won 13 of the 14 relay events during the season. In addition, 16 different athletes won at least one dual meet event during the season.
Leading the team throughout the year, reigning America East Most Outstanding Male Swimmer Mohamed Hussein (Cairo, Egypt/Victory College) notched a team-best 19 individual wins during the dual meet season. At last year's championships, Hussein took the conference by storm by winning three individual gold medals and setting the meet, pool, and UMBC school record in the 200 IM. This season, the versatile junior won eight different events and broke the UMBC pool record in the 200-yd IM with a time of 1:51.92 against Howard on Nov. 10.
Behind Hussein, senior Pierre De Waal (Pretoria, South Africa/Tuks Sport/Cleveland State) brings plenty of experience for the Retrievers. De Waal currently holds the school record in the 200 fly, which he set at last year's championships, in addition to winning the 500 free. In his last year for UMBC, De Waal has claimed 12 individual wins across four different events.
Depth was key for the Retrievers in their undefeated run this season. Sophomore Lauri Kaei (Harjumaa, Estonia/Tallinn Secondary Science), who led off for the gold medal winning 200 medley relay team last year and won a bronze in the 100 back and 100 free, recorded a strong campaign with nine wins.
Senior captain Andrew Eckhoff (Chelmsford, Mass./Chelmsford), last year's Most Outstanding Male Diver at the conference meet, looks to repeat his efforts in claiming both diving competitions. Eckhoff posted the top scores in the conference in both events this season and has qualified for the NCAA Zones meet to be held in March. Sophomore Ryan Green (Ellicott City, Md./Centennial) has also qualified for the Zones meet a hopes to provide support.
The women head to Maine following a successful 5-3 dual meet season marked by a strong all-around performance. Much like the men's team, the women's squad dominated the relay events this season, capturing the top spot in 12 of the 16 races.
The overall team success translated into individual success as well, as 16 athletes won at least one dual meet event, and 12 of them winning multiple events. The senior captains, Claire Barron (Lowestoft, England/Benjamin Britten/New Orleans) and Jennifer Kotonias (Burtonsville, Md./Academy of Holy Cross), led by example all year, combining to win 14 events. Barron, who helped the 200 and 400 medley relay teams capture gold last year, looks to win her first individual gold while Kotonias strives to reach the top again after winning the 400 IM in 2011.
The captains will have plenty of support, led by junior sprinters Erika Ronning (Western Springs, Ill/Lyons Township) and Talor Tadena (Orangevale, Calif./Bella Vista). Ronning will try to capture her first individual gold after anchoring the 200 medley and 200 free relays to wins last year. Tadena, meanwhile, will also try to get to the top after missing last year's championship meet.
Senior Amy Fay (Haverhill, Mass./Haverhill) leads distance group into the championship meet after racking up five wins during the season. Having missed last year's meet due to an arm injury, Fay will try to replicate her efforts from 2011 when she was named to the America East All-Conference Team after winning the 500 free and claiming third in the 1,650 free.
On the boards, sophomore Katie Bean (Mechanicsville, Va./Atlee) and freshman Corinna Darelius (Rye, N.Y./Rye) have turned into a reliable combination for the Retrievers. The pair won eight combined events during the season while both qualifying for the NCAA Zones. Last year, Bean reached the finals in both competitions, finishing third in the 1-meter event and eighth in the3-meter event.
The championship meet will kick-off on Thursday evening in the pool with the 800 free relay while the men begin the preliminary round of the 1-meter diving competition.