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Damp and dominant – Richmond Swim and Dive team at the A-10 Championships

Posted at 11:50 PM, Feb 22, 2018
and last updated 2018-02-23 00:00:18-05

RICHMOND, Va. -- Some of the biggest college programs have gotten there by winning their conference titles year in and year out.

Alabama football has taken the SEC title 3 of the last 4 years... and 5 of the last 9.

Kansas mens basketball has either won or shared the Big 12 regular season title for 13 straight years.

And the UConn women's team has won their conference 4 straight times, and 20 out of the last 24.

You know about all of those programs. You likely don't know about the one here at the University of Richmond with a track record just as impressive.

"We come in here every day working to win," said Sydney Weiskopf, a sophomore diver. "We know that yeah, we've won in the past and have won a lot of championships, but every year is different. We're not guaranteed anything."

The Spiders swimming and diving team has won the A-10 title seven years in a row and have won 15 of the last 16 conference titles.

It's a streak that would earn the men's football or basketball team a statue. This squad seems to prefer a little more anonymity.

"Sometimes we fly under the radar with some of the other students because swimming isn't necessarily the most popular sport on campus," said senior diver Laura Rokob. "But amongst the other athletes especially, we have a great reputation for working hard and for working together as a team."

Almost to a woman...the members of this team admit the program's past success had little to no bearing on their decision to come to U of R. They were more attracted to the campus...the academics...and once they met their future teammates...the easy camraderie of the group.

"Every year something happens that's different," Weiskopf explained. "Someone goes through a hard time or sickness or injury. It doesn't matter what happens, we will always be there for each other 100 percent."

"The way that we train and the way we build our season, it works," said Spiders Swim and Dive head coach Matthew Barany. "I think we get talented people who come in and fit into our system."

Rokob added, "I think we all, as a team, put academics first which helps encourage each other to say, hey, we're going to stay in and do homework tonight."

Once they are in the water, they are nearly unbeatable even with every other team watching their success. But if the streak is spoken about at all, it doesn't come from inside the Spider program.

"We don't really think about that," said sophomore backstroker Hannah Gougher. "We're focused on this year specifically and what we have to do at the meet to go as fast as we can. Just because we won in the past doesn't mean anything for this year."

"We try not to talk about it or look at it like that" added assistant coach Sean Letsinger. "We want to go out every year and put our best foot forward and do our best to hopefully bring back a championship. We do feel a little bit of pressure but not so much that it cripples us."

This year, however, the Spiders current streak came to an end. Despite wins in the 200-meter backstroke by Hannah Gougher and in the 200-yard breaststroke by Erin Barry, Richmond finished 2nd in this year's A-10 championships by just 9 points to Duquesne.

That still gives the program 15 A-10 titles in the last 17 years.

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