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Terriers Aim for Splash in America East Championship

Men’s, women’s swimming and diving contest begins today

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Boston University is hosting this year’s America East swimming and diving championships, and what could be sweeter than taking first place at home?

The conference championship starts today at the FitRec competition pool and runs through Sunday.

Both the men’s and women’s teams are coming off seasons that poise them to perform well against their AE rivals. The men’s team finished its regular season with a 6-2-1 record, 3-0 AE; the women have a 6-4 record, 4-0 AE.

Bill Smyth, head coach of both programs, says his two teams are very different, but he has confidence in both. “With the women’s team,” says Smyth, “we definitely haven’t seen everybody’s best yet so far, and I think we’re really going to show some good swims at the conference meet. And with the men, I think that because of our youth, we have a lot to find out about. With 75 percent of our team freshmen or sophomores, there are a few unknowns, but at the same time, we’ve had such a great amount of training at a high level this year, I’m positive they’re going to do very well.”

For the men to take their first AE championship since 1996, they’ll have to get past their biggest rival—the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. The UMBC Retrievers are the defending AE champs, and have won three of the past five titles.

Terrier men’s squad captain Daniel Kempf (CAS’12) says he’s out for revenge against the Retrievers in his final year.

“It’s exciting and a little bittersweet to have it be my last AE championship, and I’d love to win,” he says. “For the last two years we’ve been second to UMBC, and as team captain, I’d love to see everyone come out and perform like I know we can. If we do that, we have a great shot at winning.”

Kempf, who’s racing in the 50-meter, 100-meter, 100 butterfly, and relay races this weekend, says that while individual performance is important, there’s a significant team component to this year’s Terriers squad that could give them an edge.

“We’re a tight-knit group of guys now, and we race and swim for each other and it’s fun,” he says. “We’re going to build off each other’s successes, and if we do that, hopefully we’ll win the championship.”

Women’s team captain Kristen Connors (CFA’12) seconds Kempf’s team-first attitude.

“Our main goal is the team points. You want to score points for your team, so no matter what, you’re trying to be conscious of where you’re placing and who’s around you,” she notes. “We’re a really close team this year, from the men to the women and the seniors to the freshmen, so that’s a really nice thing to see.”

Amanda Schmitz, Boston University Terriers swimming and diving

Amanda Schmitz (CGS’10, SAR’12) will compete in five races this weekend. Photo by Steve McLaughlin

Connors has another goal for the competition, she says: to break her personal best times in all her races, an ambition shared by Kendra Cheng (SAR’14), who twice this season was AE Swimmer of the Week.

“I’m looking to see if I can get a school record, and just give my all in the pool,” Cheng says. “We’ve been pushed and have been working a lot harder as a team this year, and we’re ready to show what we can do.”

If Cheng does set a personal or school record, she may be the first Terrier to qualify for the NCAA tournament this season.

While a team championship is the first objective, Smyth acknowledges that getting his athletes to qualify for the NCAAs is certainly a secondary goal.

“When I first started here, my primary goal was to have a team championship, and that remains true,” he says. “But I would say having an NCAA qualifier is like having the icing on the cake. You definitely want to eat the frosting all by itself sometimes, but it goes together with the cake.”

This weekend’s AE championship marks BU’s last opportunity to send an athlete to the 2012 NCAA tournament, and Smyth is looking for a personal best from each performer.

“I want to see people do lifetime bests,” he says. “I want to see our relays do extremely well and be the highlight of our meet, and I want people to achieve their individual goals, and have that build into team spirit. I think it starts with people just swimming well, and then everything builds off of that.”

The BU men’s and women’s swimming and diving teams compete in the America East Championship today, Thursday, February 23, through Sunday, February 26, at the BU Fitness and Recreation Center competition pool. Events start at 5 p.m. on Thursday and 10 a.m. all subsequent days. Attendance is free.

Ben Carsley can be reached at bcarsley@bu.edu.

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