Women's Swimming & Diving Aims to Continue Record Run

Abigail Fusco, Gemma Atherley, Selin Ozturk and Emily Zhang are all back for the Colonials.
Oct. 3, 2017

GW women's swimming & diving ensured an overhaul of its record board by setting 10 new marks at the Atlantic 10 Championships last February.

By now, the list of names and times on the wall of Charles E. Smith Center Pool serves as much to set expectations as document history.

"There is a lot of work to be done," said Abigail Fusco, a senior who set the 100-yard backstroke mark and swam on four record-breaking relays at the conference meet. "We're all very excited because a lot of those records up there will fall this year. I think we can very confidently say that because we're only hungrier than we were last year."

 

 

It's a natural part of GW's steady progression in the pool. The Colonials have bumped from 11th to ninth to sixth in the A-10 standings over the past three years. Earlier this month, they were slotted fifth in the conference's annual preseason poll.

The climb only gets more challenging from here with seven-time defending A-10 champ Richmond and a few other much-improved programs standing in the way, but the future seems bright.

GW brings back six swimmers and a diver who scored individually at last season's conference meet and adds seven freshmen eager to get in the mix. For most of the top Colonials, the new season officially begins Friday at the FIU Fall Classic.

"We're getting to a place in the culture of the program where they expect success," Winchester said. "For us, it's `What if?' We're looking to make that next step, and it's a very real goal to break the ceiling into the top third."

Fusco, Emily Zhang (200 free/200 IM) and Jackie Torrez (200 breast/200 fly/400 IM) are all aiming to break their own program records. They know they'll need to go even faster to challenge for an A-10 title.

The women's side hasn't produced a conference gold since Caroline Myers won the 1,650 freestyle in 2014, though the 400-yard freestyle relay team of Fusco, Zhang, Selin Ozturk and Gemma Atherley claimed silver last February.

Ozturk, Atherley and Lucy Castro are the other returning scorers with designs on improving their places in the A-10 pack. Then there's Isobel Walker, who swam a leg on the 400-yard medley relay that finished ninth at the conference meet but in a program-best time of 3:48.22.

Winchester is particularly interested to see Atherley's development after an impressive summer competing in her native Channel Islands. She got her season off to a strong start last month pacing the GW contingent at CSCAA Open Water Nationals.

Fusco said it helps to have so many experienced swimmers chasing similar goals. Her record-breaking 100 back time (55.29 seconds) was good for fourth in the conference last season.

"You're constantly being pushed," Fusco said. "It's exciting to get that extra bit of motivation. That's sort of what you need if you want to be up there."

The newcomers have been a part of that daily competition for the past five weeks. Andrea Ho was the second Colonial to finish the 5K open water race in her collegiate debut. Tali Lemcoff and Morgan Birdy have impressed in practice, too.

On the diving side, GW has brought in Gabriella Arendes and Rachel Dickinson to pair with top holdover Miranda Simon, who set a program record for platform diving at the NCAA Zone A Championships last March.

Those freshmen have more than four months to learn and grow before their first chance on the A-10 stage. Until then, they'll continue to chase the records on the wall and many of the record holders every day at practice.

"When you see all the 2017s up there, it's really a great recognition of the work that the kids have put in and the commitment they've made to the culture and the program here," Winchester said. "It really raises the bar for everyone. It's been an exceptional two years in the record-breaking sense, but our kids are very much up for the challenge. They expect to do better. They expect more."

WATCH THIS: Winchester, Torrez and Max Forstenhaeusler preview the FIU Fall Classic.

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