On Saturday, January 22, Rowan’s swimming and diving took on The College of New Jersey (TCNJ) at Glassboro for the New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) Championship. In one of the most important encounters of their season, the Pros came out victorious, beating the Lions 157-139 to claim their fourteenth NJAC title.
Head Coach Elise Blaschke expressed her joy with the team and what they have achieved.
“This was an NJAC championship title that I will certainly never forget, especially last year without competition,” said coach Blaschke. “[With] a smaller roster size, it took a lot of preparation and manipulation of our roster so we could really maximize individual events. But I can say that the team was absolutely incredible and really exceeded my greatest hopes for them and all my expectations. It was unbelievable.”
Graduate student Veronica Alferez had the best of a season when she won the 200m freestyle with a time of 1:57.99. She also won the 500m freestyle with a time of 5:19.28. Her performance on Saturday earned her the NJAC Swimmer of the Week award.
Captain Jordan McChesney, a junior, was the best performer for two seasons, first in the 50-meter freestyle with a time of 24.18 seconds and then in the 100-meter freestyle with a time of 52.80. In the last two encounters, McChesney was on a hot streak, winning three individual events. She seems confident in herself and her team’s momentum for the rest of the season.
“I mean, right now we’ve got four weeks left,” McChesney said. “So it’s the home stretch… you can’t be excited about that. I think we’re just going to use that energy. I think we’ll just go straight from there and keep that forward. And if we continue to do that, we will continue to put in the effort that we have put in, I only see success ahead. ”
Alferez and McChesney joined Captain Kylie Salerno, a senior, and freshman Elizabeth Jones in the 400-meter freestyle relay. They recorded another season best with a time of 3:38.96.
Fellow freshmen Emma Padros and Bella Stefanowicz broke the season records by recording two of their own performances and both winning an individual event. Stefanowicz was also named the NJAC Rookie of the Week.
“That also feels unreal,” Stefanowicz said. “I can’t even begin to process what that means. I feel so honoured. I think my performance showed and it was a really good time.”
The journey to this championship was hard fought with some bumps along the way. The Ramapo College meeting was moved from Nov. 13 to Jan. 13, and the Tri Meet against Worcester Polytechnic Institute and Swarthmore College was canceled due to health and safety protocols. However, according to coach Blaschke, the changes in the schedule have not derailed the season of the pro.
“The adjustment to the established schedule was definitely an adjustment in terms of how we were going to train that week,” Blaschke said. “I think it was helpful to have Ramapo through the week to race, rather than having to do something like a lactate set to practice. But overall, it wasn’t something our team wasn’t prepared for.”
Stefanowicz supported her coach’s statement that she was unimpressed by the changes and that she was ready for TCNJ.
“I prepared mentally by sleeping and I prepared physically in the pool,” Stefanowicz said. “I just got so excited and hyper and all my adrenaline was just raging so I didn’t feel anything.”
The regular season finale is on Saturday, February 5 in Rowan against the United States Merchant Marines Academy, which also means it will be the seniors’ last home game.
“I think we’re going to use our senior meeting as an opportunity for, obviously, our senior class to have one last race here at the Tony Lisa Natatorium,” said coach Blaschke. “[And] also use that meeting as our last chance to practice the race strategy leading to [the Metropolitan Conference Championships].”
The Pros have about three weeks to prepare for the four-day Metropolitan Conference Championships on February 17, but they must first get through their final home game of the season.
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