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Drury Athletics | July 29, 2014

Drury's decade of dominance

GENEVA, Ohio -- It is now, officially, a decade of dominance.

Drury won its record 10th consecutive men's NCAA Division II national title and the DU women made it a sweep for the fifth time in the past six years as the Panther squads walked away with top honors as the national swimming and diving championships came to a close on Saturday night at the Spire Institute.

The DU men were untouched yet again, compiling 569.5 points to 361 for runner-up Florida Southern. Wayne State (Mich.) finished third at 358.5, followed by Queens (N.C.) (285) and Bridgeport (258.5) to round out the top five.

Qualification Lists
On the women's side, the momentum the Panthers picked up with their big victory in the 800 free relay in Friday's last event clearly carried over into Saturday's finale, as DU went on to finish with 486 points to 419 for runner-up Wayne State (Mich.) after leading by just nine points going into the final day. Queens was third with 368.5, followed by West Chester (300) and UC-San Diego (248.5).

The men's meet appeared over, for all intents and purposes, by no later than the end of the second day, when the Panthers were already up by triple digits. But the women's competition turned on that 800 free relay effort, Reynolds said.

"When we ended up being ahead at the end of the day instead of being 20 or so behind, as we had anticipated might happen, it made it a lot easier for us," he said. "But it wouldn't have mattered, because we came out today with full guns blazing and swam extremely well this morning in the prelims."

It marks the 12th men's title and 10th for the women since Drury made the move to the NCAA-II level in 1994-95. Counting their NAIA days, it's the 21st men's national championship and the 13th for the women in the program's history, with all but one of those coming under the magnificent, 31-year reign of head coach Brian Reynolds.

And each one, Reynolds says, feels just as important and satisfying as those of the past.

"They all are special," he said. "The only thing that gets old is the level of stress I have to endure as I get older. My body can't seem to cope with it as well as it used to."

And, just as it seemingly happens every year, Drury had past stars uphold and enhance their reputations on their way out as seniors and new faces emerge as Panthers to watch in the coming years.

From the senior leadership and performances of the likes of Nick McCarthy, Igor Kowal, Tinsley Andrews and Agnieszka Ostrowska to the promising leaps forward of the likes of sophomore distance standout Sarah Pullen, freshman backstroker Yekaterina Rudenko and freshmen for the men like Fahad Alkhaldi, Daniel Rzadkowski and Alec Morris, the results in the end were the same.

And there were no two better shining examples of what Drury swimming is all about than seniors McCarthy and Ostrowska, two kids who were solid squad members their first three years, but broke out of the pack and became bonafide swimming stars in their final season.

Ostrowska won the 200 breast on Saturday night, breaking the national record (2:12.70) she set a month ago at the GLVC Championships by completing the race in 2:11.45.

"I'm just super proud of Aggie," Reynolds said. "She took on a lot of really tough events this year, and she's pretty exhausted after four days of swimming, so to go 2:11 after the number of great performances she put on this week is a super accomplishment.

"She came off the meet last year and totally went to work right away. She hit the weight room, lost more weight, trimmed up, did everything we asked of her and was absolutely the perfect athlete you could ever have ... and that's why she was capable of pulling off the kind of swims she had this week."

McCarthy was the champion in the 50 free, finished second in the 100 free on Saturday and became that anchor leg on the relays that DU was seeking since relay manchild Vladimir Sidorkin graduated last May. He had finished 17th, 16th and ninth in the 50 in his three previous trips to nationals.

"He's always had it ... as Nick refined his stroke his first couple of years of training, then we went to work on his kick and all the other elements that made him aggressive on the wall, which used to just bury him before," Reynolds said. "He's just a kid who would listen and work on things every day. The progression is always such where we love to see a kid peak in his senior year, and Nick was a great example of that.

"The thing we pride ourselves on more than anything is the continued development of the athlete through a four-year cycle. That's how we've been able to maintain the dominance. We talk to them after the national meet, explain to them that these are the things they have been shown by the older kids that you have to do, and it's all just part of the process."

If not for a single-point loss to Wayne State (Mich.) two years ago in Mansfield, Texas, there would have been six consecutive years of DU sweeps. It's a painful memory for Reynolds, but one that serves a definite purpose -- he said the coaching staff mentioned it in Wednesday's pre-meet talk as an example of how every race by every Drury swimmer, and every second they are in the water, matters in the end.

Then his Panthers went out and swam like it.

Saturday's effort was highlighted by Ostrowska's record-setting swim in the 200 breast and a second by Rudenko in the 200 back, but also a victory in the 400 free relay to close the meet by Rudenko, Leah Reed, Andrews and Wai Ting Yu, who also finished third in the 100 free on Saturday.

The men got a second from the freshman Morris -- who just joined the team at the semester -- in the mile, a second from Kowal in the 200 back, a third from Banjo Borja in the 200 breast and, fittingly, a victory in the closing 400 free relay from Rzadkowski, Samuel Olson -- a great story in itself, with his comeback from a broken collarbone suffered in early January -- Albert Lloyd and the aforementioned McCarthy.

Then again, they were all great stories to Reynolds and many of those in northeastern Ohio who witnessed them.

"The announcer who's been doing this meet for like the last 10 years came up and said, 'I don't know how you do it, Coach, but whatever you guys do, it's pretty magical,' " Reynolds said. "But it's about the kids. It's about them taking on what we lay out for them to do, listening, and then training that way. They have to come to the pool every day willing to do those kinds of things to keep getting better.

"We take a lot of pride in the time and effort we put into the kids, and the kids pay us back by swimming the way they do."

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