By Preston Byers
The Youngstown State University swimming and diving team finished its season at the Horizon League Championships on Feb. 22.
The men’s and women’s teams both finished last in the conference, scoring 97 and 282 team points, respectively. In both competitions, Oakland University, which hosted the tournament, won by more than 200 points.
Senior Tiphaine Saint-Gilles placed sixth in the 200-yard breaststroke event with a time of 2:21.11. The Penguins’ women 200-yard medley relay team, which included Saint-Gilles, also finished sixth with a time of 1:44.28, more than 2 seconds quicker than its previous best time of 1:46.73.
For the men’s team, this was its first Horizon League Championship appearance, and it is the first YSU team to appear in a conference championship since 1984.
In the 400-yard freestyle relay, the all-freshman team of Duncan Moss, Brandon Cheong, Ryan Scherer and Wilson Cannon set a school record of 3:07.29.
Brad Smith, the men’s and women’s coach, is happy about his young team’s performance, which set eight school records.
“They met the expectations that I set,” he said. “The bar that I set was pretty high. I couldn’t think of working with a better group than what we have. We met most of our program goals and our team goals.”
In addition to their performance in the pool, Smith said he was proud of the men’s team’s average 3.47 GPA and the women’s team’s average 3.42 GPA.
With the conclusion of the conference championship, Smith completed his first season at YSU. Before coming to Youngstown, he served as the head swimming and diving coach at Binghamton University, where he spent five seasons.
Previously, he coached at Western Colorado University and was an assistant coach at the University of Maine.
As a first-year coach, the results were promising, according to Smith.
“[We did] better than anticipated,” he said. “As a new coach, not knowing what to expect, the team was eager and ready to embrace change.”
Smith is especially excited about the men’s team, which is almost entirely comprised of freshmen. Of those underclassmen, Smith named Wilson Cannon, Brandon Cheong and Koran Raju, among several others, as swimmers to expect strong performances from over the next three years.
Smith said the men’s team was disappointed in its placing, but he reminded the members before and after the event how young they really are.
“I told them, ‘Don’t forget you’re the first men’s team since 1984 to be in a conference championship. You guys are all freshmen, and you’re getting up there behind the block and you’re standing next to grown men,’” he said.
With the intercollegiate competition completed, the team’s break from practice will extend past spring break, which is March 11-17.