FORT PIERCE, Fla., March 7. DEATH, taxes … and Indian River Community College swimming.
It's no longer a streak, it's an annual tradition.
The Pioneers men's team claimed its 30th consecutive National Junior College Athletic Association championship. The women won their 21st straight title and 26th overall last night.
"It never gets old, never," sophomore Richie Chapman said. "Winning again is pretty amazing. Obviously, we haven't won all 30 in a row. It's all the alumni everywhere that won and have their names on the wall. We're trying to represent them and keep the streak going."
And both won titles in very convincing fashion.
"We had a really good meet," said Pioneers coach Scott Kimmelman, who was named Men's Coach of the Year for the second year in a row. "This is incredible. These streaks are unmatched at any level and these kids don't take it for granted. They want to keep going."
The men were perfect in the pool, winning all 18 races in the four-day championship. The Pioneers finished with 770 points, while Lincoln College was second with 348.
The men came close to accomplishing the feat last year, winning 17 of 18 races.
"This team, overall, was a lot better than last year's team," said sophomore Alejandro Gomez, who won five championships during the week. "We're more together and we've been able to fill three heats.
"It's been an honor to be a part of this team this year. What we've done — winning every men's race — hasn't been done in a long time. It's our mark on history."
Gomez and sophomore Teylor Arboleda tied for Men's Swimmer of the Year honors.
"That's great for both of them to share the award because they both deserve it," Kimmelman said. "It's been a long time since the award has been shared and it's fitting for those two to share it."
The women won 16 of 20 total events and finished with 606.5 points. The College of Dupage was second with 285.
Sophomore Carolina Sierra, who won three individual championships and was named Women's Swimmer of the Year, said the team was focused on repeating as national champions as soon as practice began last August.
"We've been waiting for these (four) days since Day One," she said. "We're really excited about winning. Everything here is about nationals and the look at the wall. That's what keeps us going.
"We're the best thing this campus has. It's such a big thing to be on the swimming and diving team."
Kimmelman said he was impressed with the women's effort.
"They had a very strong meet," he said. "They actually are not as strong overall as they were last year and they stepped it up big time. They proved that they were worthy of the challenge."
IRCC's women won six of seven events Saturday. The lone loss, the 100-yard freestyle, was the closest race of the night.
Lincoln College's Brianne Nation held off Mercyhurst's Cassandra Roose to win the race.
Nation, who won the 200 Individual Medley on Thursday, was the only non-IRCC swimmer to win multiple championships. She edged Roose by just .40 seconds, while IRCC's Chelsea Lewis was third.
"Two championships — I'm pretty happy," Nation said. "I thought this race was going to be real close. I knew I had to give it everything because all of these girls are very strong competitors."
But the night belonged to the Pioneers.
They started wearing black "National Champion" tee-shirts moments after the final race and the entire team — including coaches and some administrators — celebrated in the pool after the final results were announced.
Kimmelman, never one to rest after a title, even started talking about next year.
"We have some holes to fill and some bodies to replace, but we're ready to go," he said. "These kids want to keep this going. We want more names on the wall."
Complete results at: http://www.ircc.edu/swimmeet/index.htm
– Jon Santucci
Vero Beach Press Journal