Editor's Note: Head coach Matt Barany will continue his annual tradition and pen a blog over the duration of this week's A-10 Championship. His sixth and final championship week entry can be found below.
Feb. 26, 2012: 27 Weeks Later, A Tenth Title And Plenty Of Cats
We're back in sunny Richmond after our five-night stay in Buffalo, N.Y. The University of Richmond has its tenth A-10 Swimming & Diving championship, and the season isn't over. Of course, Cha has her final meet in London, and it looks like Lauren (18th in the country) will get a shot at earning All-America honors at the 2012 NCAA Championship meet in Auburn. The travel itinerary stays busy.
We are fortunate to have shared our week with our Athletic Director, Jim Miller, and the Dean of Westhampton College, Juliette Landphair. I know we have a very special group; I hope their front-row seat for this championship gives them a glimpse into the greatness I work with daily. We thank them for taking the time to travel to the vacation destination that is Buffalo in February.
I am thankful for our fun-loving cast - Erika, Nicole, Zach, Travis and a bunch of cats. There were unnecessary cheers for Travis and Zach (aka: Jack). We benefited from too many "Zach Attacks" and "slow claps" each day. These guys were not only supportive of the women in our quest for a championship, but they were also great sports when the joke was on them. And the cats...
We request the women to not participate in social media while we are in Buffalo. The women found a way to fill this void with a new iPhone app called Cat Effects. It allows you to transpose cats into any photo. The ladies enjoyed taking candid pictures and "cat effecting" it. I was not spared.
We closed the week with our annual dinner at Pearl Street. The seniors and their parents shared the microphone to articulate their four years. This group of six (Liz Cohan, Mary Anne Lerro, Lexi Kuska, Jill Smaniotto, Michelle Johnson and Cha Brackett) has seen it all. They were highly-touted freshmen when we won #8 and said good-bye to Lauren Beaudreau and Cara Smaniotto; they were sophomores when we learned about defeat; they were juniors when we established our core values and stormed back last year; they were senior leaders for this championship. They couldn't have more different personalities, yet they stuck together through defections and defeat to go out as champions. Each of them can extract value from this week, and we cannot measure their value to our program. They will be missed dearly. Luckily, Mr. Turtle will be staying with us!
We also shared a short conference call with our JMU friends as they celebrated their first CAA championship since 2001. They, too, believe in the value of good people, hard work and laughter.
Mali Kobelja and Allison Titley were recognized by the A-10 coaches. Being the only swimmer to win three individual events, Mali was named Swimmer of the Meet. Mali has amazing versatility; she anchored our winning 400 Free Relay with 49.60 after going 2:13 in the 200 Breast. That's not a common feat. We're proud the A-10 coaches recognize her value to our program. Allison was a source of inspiration for all. She won the 500 Free, chased Cha in the 200 Free, won the Academy Award for Cat Effects and was named Rookie of the Meet. Allison is a one-of-a-kind young woman. She is zany, yet she is also sensitive. I can't imagine a team without these two.
I can't imagine my life without any of these women. On the top layer, we see a small university, a growing wave of support from our alumni, a group of motivated young women, a team championship, a breaststroke army, a surging IM group, a diving component with traction, a dance party and some cats. Go a layer deeper and you'll find 27 weeks of training, the development of skills, the focus on minute details like perfect relay-exchanges, an understanding of sport science, more efficient hearts, stronger cores and ambitious minds. Slip deeper and you'll find the values that we find crucial - pride, purpose, courage, selflessness, and respect - wrapped in lifelong friendships. At the bottom of all of it are a love for our sport and a love for each other.
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