On Jan. 29 the Saint Leo University Men’s and Women’s Swim Teams opened their home pool one last time for the 2015-2016 Academic year, to host the University of Tampa Spartans. Prior to the meet the statistics already showed that was going to be a high class meet with the Saint Leo Men ranked tenth and the Spartans ranked third in the nation, according to collegeswimming.com. The Women’s team for Tampa was ranked eleventh and the Saint Leo Women’s team was ranked twenty-fourth.
Among the spectators were many Saint Leo Alumni and former members of the swim team who came out to cheer on the next generation. One of them is Gabe Keown, an alumni from 2014, and the holder of the school record for the men’s team in the 200 and 400 free relay, and who used to hold five more records.
“It is strange being back and not being able to participate. Sitting on the sideline is definitely a different perspective and it makes me appreciate it a lot more,” says Keown. “The team has gotten better every single year. The amount of people that are going to the national championship gets bigger every year. Paul has really done some amazing recruiting and the results show his great work. Paul is like an evil genius. He knows what he is doing and the people that are 100 percent committed will see the results. The numbers don’t lie.”
Many students, parents, faculty and alumni were there to honor the individuals from both the men’s and women’s team. On the men’s site Pawel Trenda, Matheus Assis, and Evan Jacob finished their last meet in the Bowman Center Pool, while of the women Stephanie Martinez, Isabella Bains, and Katie Sanacore raced their final meet of the regular season.
“It is bittersweet to see them leave after four years. I’m proud of all they have accomplished and know they’ll be very successful in life and I believe we’ve done the best we could to foster and facilitate that growth. They have each helped develop Saint Leo Swimming into a nationally ranked program both in and out of the pool,” says head coach Paul Mangen.
With six seniors leaving the question comes up, whether they can be replaced. “Yes and no. We built the last two or three recruiting classes around these seniors so I will be doing the same with the team building the next group around the existing members who will be here next year and the years to come. It will be very difficult to find six people that are this versatile this talented and able to immediately impact the way this group was when they came to Saint Leo University. However; because the profile of our program has been raised so much by their efforts and the efforts of their teammates and coaches as well as administrative support, we will be able to attract at a higher level than we did in years past,” Mangen says.
One of the seniors that had a big impact on the program is Matheus Assis, a Management & Marketing major from João Pessoa, Paraiba, Brazil already held 8 conference titles, 6 All American honors, and multiple school records, before the last championships even started. Assis is already qualified for the national championship starting March 9th in Indianapolis.
“It is bittersweet to leave, I am happy to have accomplished everything I did and it’s been a great 4 years,” said Assis. “Swimming has changed me in many different ways. It’s made me tougher, more determined, and disciplined. I think, just, it’s made me a better person in general.”
“I’m proud of the direction we have moved in the past 7 years I’ve been here. We annually produce All-Americans in the Pool, Academic All-Americans in the classroom, have averaged Top 15 Placing at the NCAA National championships over 3 years, have been consistently in the top 10 and even top 5 in National Team GPA, but most importantly we exemplify the mission of this university through our fostering, facilitating, and development of great people that are ready to enter society and be productive,” Mangen says.
At the end of the day, all of the Lions performed well and were able to take the win on the women’s side with a final score of 151 to 111. On the men’s side Tampa showed that they are fully worth being ranked third in the nation beating the Lions with a score of 145 to 116.This was the last meet of the regular season before the Lions head to the Conference Championship meet that will start on Feb. 17 in Orlando, Florida.