Even the cancellation of the Patriot League Championships couldn’t prevent the Lafayette swim and dive team from breaking records.
The team concluded their 2021 season with a Senior Day home meet against Lehigh last weekend, which took place in two sessions over Saturday and Sunday. Both the men and women lost despite setting a number of new pool and Lafayette All-Time records.
The Leopards didn’t waste any time etching their names into the history books on Saturday, as the 400-yard medley relay team of sophomore Aaron Tupper, junior Michael Gorgan, senior Tanner McFarland and freshman Ben Arky set a new pool record for the event. The foursome finished first in 3:22.85, scoring 11 points and breaking a five-year old record in the process.
Tupper kicked off the medley relay in the backstroke and also set a new school record with his split time of 50.65 seconds, breaking the previous mark from 2015 by a mere 0.01 seconds. Gorgan’s breaststroke split time of 54.35 seconds also placed him second on Lafayette’s All-Time Top 10 list for the event.
“A lot of what drives me is understanding that we [didn’t] have a full season,” Gorgan said. “So I have been really trying to emphasize power training over endurance and cardio training.”
It seems to be working: Gorgan later set a personal best in the 100-yard backstroke at 55.03 seconds, which was nearly three seconds faster than the next closest competitor, and earned nine points for the Leopards in the event.
The men’s team was also supported by a pair of top finishes from junior Justin Lloyd, who took home first place in the 200-yard freestyle with a time of 1:40.93, earning nine points for the Leopards. Lloyd also placed second in the 1000-yard freestyle in 9:49.34, good for an additional four points.
“It was super fun to watch people swim really well, they put in the work and earned it,” Lloyd said. “It helps everyone else on the team rally around that and it helps build energy and momentum for the rest of the meet.”
Tupper rounded out the first place finishes for the men with a win in the 50-yard freestyle in 21.33 seconds, and also earned second place in the 100-yard backstroke in 51.16 seconds, just 0.02 off the first place pace.
The men’s team finished the first session trailing Lehigh by a score of 78.50 to 61.50.
The women’s team came out humming during the first session on Saturday, taking second place in the 400-yard medley. The team, consisting of juniors Danielle Carr and Samantha Talecki and sophomores Maggie Champagne and Lindsey Monaco, finished with a time of 3:58.04. Both Carr and Champagne landed themselves on the Lafayette All-Time Top 10 list with their splits of 57.97 and 1:07.31 – good for third and sixth all time in school history, respectively. The team earned four points for the relay event.
Junior Tara Leininger also made her mark in the record books with a time of 1:07.72 in the 100-yard breaststroke, the 10th fastest time in school history. Freshmen Kaley Snarr rounded out the top scorers for the women, taking home second in the 200-yard freestyle with a time of 1:56.78 and earning four points in the process.
The women’s team finished the first session trailing Lehigh 111-35, but the Leopards were not discouraged by the lopsided score.
“I think having other teammates break records [on Saturday] just gave everybody this sense of ‘we’re still in it, we’re still competing really well’ even though this season has been so different from everything before,” Leininger said, noting that several of her teammates were put into quarantine just before the meet.
Gorgan and Leininger continued to lead the Leopards in the second session of the meet and kept on breaking records.
Gorgan competed in the 200-yard breaststroke and not only won the event but also broke a pool record that had held since 2016. His final time was 2:00.41, earning nine points for the Leopards and inking his name into second place on the Lafayette All-Time Top 10 list.
He then went on to win the 100-yard individual medley (IM) in a final time of 51.46, which broke yet another Lafayette pool record and gave the Leopards another nine points. Gorgon’s time was also the fastest in school history in the event, giving him another broken record.
“I think the most fun race to watch was Michael [Gorgan] swimming the 100 IM,” Lloyd said. “That was an awesome race and he broke a really fast pull record and won the heat by a mile.”
Lloyd himself enjoyed another successful day, winning the 500-yard freestyle in a blazing 4.33.38 to break the Lafayette pool record in the event. He already holds the All-Time school record in the 500 free.
But Lloyd isn’t one to rest on his laurels.
“It was nice to break that pool record,” Lloyd said, “But I was hoping to get both the 1000 [yard freestyle] and the 500 [records].”
On the women’s side during the second session, Leininger broke two more records – one of which she already held.
“It was probably one of the best meets I’ve had since I’ve been here,” Leininger said.
She placed first in the 200-yard breaststroke with a time of 2.21.90, breaking her own school record that she set three weeks ago at the April Pool’s Day meet. The second school record came in the 100-yard individual medley with a time of 1:00.86. Although Leininger finished second in the race, she notched herself another rung in the Lafayette history books.
“I just really wanted to have a good race,” Leininger said. “I was zoned in on trying to have the best race I could have and not getting caught up in all of the excitement.”
Lafayette finished second in the meet; the men lost 170.50-116.50 and the women lost 217-69. However, the season finale offered a hopeful step in the right direction as many younger swimmers showcased the future of Leopard swimming and diving.
In addition to their talent, the team members have gotten closer during an unorthodox spring season.
“I think we have a very tightly-knit team despite COVID,” Gorgan said. “Even the freshmen were immediately integrated into the team. It is hard because we can’t convene due to the guidelines, but I’m really happy with how close we are.”
Due to the pandemic, the Patriot League Championship meet was canceled in early April. The ten seniors on the team, six women and four men, have had two seasons affected by the pandemic and have remained leaders through it all. The team was understandably disappointed, but they didn’t let it get to them.
“Our seniors have committed everything they had and more over the last four years,” said head coach Jim Daley in an interview with GoLeopards.com. “They led by example and were outstanding role models. This last year and short season was immensely chaotic, and they led the team through it.”
Managing Editor Andrew Hollander ’21 contributed reporting.