In conference debut, Bisons win title
Bennett leads Gallaudet to dominating NEAC championship win
COBLESKILL, N.Y. -- For the first time in program history, a Gallaudet University men’s swimming team won a conference championship as the Bison celebrated their 2011 North Eastern Athletic Conference (NEAC) title Sunday night at the Bouck Hall Natatorium on the campus of SUNY Cobleskill. This is the first year Gallaudet has been a member of the NEAC after spending many years in the Capital Athletic Conference.
The Bison swept both conference titles as the women’s program also won the 2011 NEAC swimming and diving championship on Sunday evening.
“This feels wonderful! It doesn’t get better then this [sweeping both titles],” said Gallaudet coach Bill Snape after the championship meet concluded. “Winning these championships is very emotional for me. I am not sure it has sunk in yet.”
Gallaudet posted 502 team points during the three-day championship as the Bison won seven of the 19 events. Runner-up Wells College, the defending conference champion, was Gallaudet's Brian Bennett with NEAC commissioner Candice Poiss Murray 70 points behind the Bison as it tallied 428 points. SUNYIT was third with 348 points followed by Cazenovia College (274) and rounded out by the host Fighting Tigers from Cobleskill (162).
Junior Brian Bennett dominated the meet, winning five events, including two relays, and was second and third on two additional Bison relay teams. Bennett closed out the meet with a stellar 1,650-yard freestyle race where he touched the wall first in 17 minutes and 24.60 seconds. Bennett was an unanimous choice for 2011 NEAC Men’s Swimmer of the Year. Snape was also recognized with the 2011 NEAC Men’s Swimming Coach of the Year award giving him the clean sweep of both coaching honors for the year as he received the women’s equivalent as well.
“I want to thank SUNY Cobleskill for running a great conference championship this weekend. It had the feel of a big-time championship meet. Everything ran smoothly,” said Snape. “This meet put the conference on the map.”
Bennett wasn’t the only Bison making waves at the championship as freshman DJ Everton-Lovell made a big splash in his conference championship meet debut where he won four events, including two relays, and was second, third and fourth in three additional events. The freshman set the tone on Sunday when he started the third and final day with a win in the 200 backstroke as he touched the wall in 2:10.61.
Gallaudet placed itself in position to win the title on Saturday, when it won three events and finished second in two others. Bennett won the 200 freestyle (1:49.99) while Everton-Lovell was first in the 100 backstroke (1:00.02). GU was also victorious in the 200 medley relay which consisted of Bennett, Everton-Lovell, juniors James McGowan and senior Kyle Sexton.
A key to both championship wins was the depth Gallaudet sent to Cobleskill. GU was able to secure crucial points when they were able to enter a second relay team to compete in the ‘B Finals’ where the Buff and Blue won the majority of those races which brought in double digit point totals for Gallaudet’s team scores.
“That was the difference for the men’s team this weekend. Our A and B finals were huge for us,” said Snape. “Every single person stepped up and did their best this weekend. There is no way we would win these championships without them.”
Gallaudet will return its big three in Bennett, McGowan and Everton-Lovell next season along with its depth which is music to Snape’s ears as the Bison begin a title defense.