Coming Home with Hardware: Swim Champs Recap

Ava Compagnoni

The most exciting event of the year for the Aqua Bears is the annual Centennial Champs held at Gettysburg College! The Centennial Champs run for four days and are filled with competitive swimming, extreme team spirit, and LOTS of record-breaking. Champs are a mix of individual and team success in many varying ways: medley relay team success, individual swimmer success, final team scores, breaking Centennial, Ursinus, and personal records.

Day 1: Thursday, February 16th: The men’s 200-yard medley relay got it done in the pool on the first day of champs by breaking a three-year old Ursinus record. The quartet of Ryan Schreffler ‘23, Francesco D’Avella ‘26, Stephen Lyons ‘24, and Ryan Carkhuff ‘23 composed the record-breaking squad. In the 800-yard relay, the men barely missed beating the school record, but with a squad without seniors, the future is bright for those four men. The women’s 800-yard freestyle relay earned their quickest time this season by a large margin of 20 seconds. The swimmers, Sara Bozzomo, Katie Barlow, Abigail Ferguson, and Melissa Leonard finished second in the race. The men at the end of day one were tied for third with Swarthmore, while the women stood alone in third trailing behind Gettysburg for second. 

Day 2: Friday, February 17th: Across the board, men’s and women’s, the Aqua Bears were shaving times off their personal records, both from the current season and past. However, the two highlights from day two were junior Melissa Leonard and senior Ryan Carkhuff capturing gold medals in the 500-yard freestyle and 50-yard freestyle, respectively. Leonard’s first place time of 4:57:95 qualifies her for an NCAA B-Cut time; additionally, she smashed her own record from this season! For swimming novices, NCAA B-Cut time is a standard a swimmer needs to meet to qualify or get invited to national meets. Leonard described the champs in one word: electric. “The energy on the pool deck is insane. Everyone is screaming for everyone. I seriously get chills just thinking about it,” says Leonard. At the end of day two, the men’s team was ranked fourth, and the women remained in third place.

Day 3: Saturday, February 18th: That’s the thing about records, they are meant to be broken!!! In the 100 breast, Jake Hennegan ‘24, recorded a time of 57.65 in the preliminaries, and almost re-broke it in the finals but fell a few seconds short. To top that, Francesco D’Avella ‘26 broke Hennegan’s record in the B-Final recording 57.03 to win first place! Seniors Maxwell Valeriano and Samuel Taffet both broke their own personal records in their events. For the women, Melissa Leonard ‘24 collected gold medals left and right with a very successful trip to the championships. She earned her second gold medal in the 200- yard freestyle, as the returning champ from last year’s CC champs, clocked a time of 1:51:04, her personal best, second in time in school history as back-to-back champion. Her teammates supported
her success in their other events, tallying up points for the Bears. Sophomore Katie Barlow collected third place in the 400-yard IM recording her personal best time, with senior Abigail Ferguson finishing behind her in fourth. The men and women continue to stay in the rankings from the last two sessions, men in fourth and women in third.

Day 4: Sunday, February 19th: The last day of champs are always exciting and filled with anticipation from the teams to see if there will be a last minute ranking change. Unfortunately, there was no ranking change, the women’s team finished in the 3rd for the conference and the men in 4th, stuck in the same position over the last three days. Jonah Kasznay ‘25 collected a gold medal in the 1650 Free, breaking his personal record, which happened to be the school record from this season! The men finished out champs by breaking the 400- yard freestyle relay. The squad of Dylan Schreffler ‘25, Stephen Lyons ‘24, William Cano ‘26, and Ryan Carkhuff ‘23 finished in second place and brought home some hardware. For the women, all eyes were on Melissa Leonard ‘24. She earned Most Outstanding Performer Award, the most prestigious award for the weekend. On Day 4 she finished in first place in the 1650-yard freestyle, making a NCAA B-Time, a personal best time, and second all-time in Ursinus history.

Congrats to all the swimmers who accomplished so much this season, breaking personal, Ursinus, and CC records left and right! To the seniors, thank you for the last four years of your dedication to the team and the pool! Go Bears!