Flashback Friday looks at the top moments from the 2015-16 athletic year at the College of Staten Island. At No. 6 on our summer countdown we take to the water for the CSI Men’s Swimming and Diving team and their continued reign on the CUNYAC, as they brought home their third-straight championship in early February. It was an anticipated tight race going in, but the Dolphins saved their best performances for last, putting heavy distance between their opponents on the final day on competition to seal the deal.
#6 – Men’s Swimming & Diving breaks open tight race to win third-straight CUNYAC title
Date: February 7, 2016
Who: CSI Men’s Swimming & Diving Team
Where: Lehman College – Bronx, NY
What Happened: The Dolphins were defending a back-to-back championship heading into the CUNYAC finals on the first weekend in February, so surely the pressure was on for a repeat performance. The other CUNYAC contingents had also closed a bit of the gap, so much so that Head Coach Michael Ackalitis knew his unit would need to be strong at the top to ward off the depth of teams like Baruch College and Lehman College. After Day One, the Dolphins were positioned with a modest 18 point lead, but after two broken records on Day Two the lead grew to 35 points, thanks largely to top performances, but there was still plenty of room for opponents to make up ground on the final day of competition. That’s when CSI rose to the occassion, almost doubling its lead on the final day, defeating both Baruch and Lehman by 68 points thanks to a record-breaking turn by Tim Sweeney in the 200-yard Butterfly and a punctuation mark in the 400-yard Freestyle Relay where foursome Nicholas Defonte, Derek Villa, Jonathan Gorinshteyn and Sweeney warded off feverish competition in a heavily contested race. Sweeney was named Most Valuable Performer at the Championship, and when the dust settled, CSi had taken first place in 14 of the meet’s 20 races and broke four meet records to boot. With no graduating seniors on the roster, the Dolphins will be looking towards even more top performances in the future and a fixture atop the conference when 2016-17 rolls around.
Q&A…with Derek Villa
This team has had a history of excellence in recent years and you certainly had to be looked at as the favorites going into this year. Is it comfortable for you guys being in that position or does it create pressure? It’s actually a bittersweet feeling. It’s nice to be looked at as the top team, but we don’t want to lose being the so-called top team either, so there is pressure to always make sure you are at your best.
The bar is set high for this team and in swimming you really need to be in top shape year round. Describe your off season and what its like to keep that maintenance? As a swimmer, our bodies cannot be out of the water more than one day, or we will be playing catch-up. So when our season is over and we enter our off season, we need to try to slow down our eating and continue to swim as much as we can. If we don’t swim over the summer, jumping back into the pool in September is going to be an extremely painful and tedious training.
You specialize in distance events and in Freestyle competition, which features some of the fastest swimmers in the conference. What’s it like knowing that every time you get in the pool, you’re probably going up against some of the other squads’ fastest swimmers? It is very intimidating, I never know when and if my opponent will make his move, especially in distance events. So I just have to go my hardest and out-swim my opponents every time I dive into the pool.
This season the swimming teams got to do something never done before and go to Florida on a week long team bonding and training trip. What did that trip do for the team in preparation for what was to come? I think it helped the team get to know one another. We all had a great time. It was tough waking up early every morning to swim and then swim later in the afternoon in an Olympic-sized pool. This was great preparation for all of our championship meets that we had in the months to come.
At the CUNYAC Championship are there any strategies you employed on that day that’s different from other races during the season, especially since there are so many more competitors to deal with? My own goals, in a championship, are to swim my hardest and to leave everything I have in the pool. As far as strategy, I just have to beat the person next to me and to do a best personal time.
Your coach expected a very tight race going in and for you guys to win you were really going to have to perform well. You guys set personal records and really, the team ran away with it in the end. Do you specifically taper yourselves to be at your peak during the Championships and were even you guys surprised at the results? Everyone tapers differently, but the goal is to be as ready as we can, so that when we dive into the pool on the first day, we kill it. I am always surprised at my first race of the meet, that is always my fastest and best race of the year.
Despite the tremendous successes the team is still relatively young and didnt graduate any seniors last year, making you the favorites again next year. What are your team and personal goals for the unit ahead in 2016-17? I think that we are a force to be reckoned with, but we cannot forget that we must still work our hardest to better ourselves and the team as a whole. I think that it is going to be a fun and great upcoming year.