Strong individual finishes highlight championship week for women’s swim and dive

Hannah Benavides and Ella Hacker reached the consolation finals in their respective events on Saturday. PHOTO CREDIT:

The University of Rhode Island women’s swim and dive team took to the pool at the Spire Institute in Geneva, Ohio last week, finishing 11th out of 11 teams at the Atlantic 10 Championships.

Despite the team finish, several high-placing individual performances set an optimistic tone for the future of the program, according to Head Coach, Lilli Falconer Deering.

“Overall, our team was just a much stronger team this year than we’ve had in the past,” Deering said. “Our finishes were much higher than they’ve been…The majority of our swims were lifetime best swims, we had a lot of girls go season-best or college best times, which was really great.”

Among Rhode Island’s top finishers were first-year diver Lily Hsu and second-year swimmer Hannah Benavides, who both reached multiple finals over the course of the championships in their respective events.

Hsu’s first scoring finish came on the opening day of the championships on Thursday, where she joined fourth-year Marta Baumann in reaching the consolation final. Baumann finished 14th (232.55 points), and Hsu was not far behind in 16th (173.20 points). The performances were enough to secure four team points for the Rams on day one.

In her first-ever collegiate championship meet, Hsu’s score was the fourth-highest among all freshmen in the event.

“It was really cool to go into it as a freshman, going into A-10’s,” Hsu said. “It was a little stressful just because I didn’t really know what to expect, but overall it was an awesome experience.”

Rhode Island would also record points in the team relay events. In the 200-yard freestyle relay, URI’s fourth-year Julia Renna, third-year Mackenzie Thomas, first-year Ella Hacker and first-year Abby Zadorozny tied with Saint Louis for 10th place to secure 13 team points. The 800-yard freestyle saw first-year Rylee Kelly, fourth-year Aimee Garcia, fourth-year Camryn Kreuscher and third-year Mia Bonvissuto finish in 11th with a time of 7:38.13, earning 12 more team points for the Rams.

Rhode Island would finish day one in 11th place, seven points behind St. Bonaventure.

Another top finish would highlight day two of the championships for Rhode Island, as second-year Kelsey McMenemy won the first heat of the 200-meter individual medley preliminaries in 2:07.48 minutes. The finish was good for 27th overall out of 57 swimmers, but was not enough to see McMenemy through to Thursday’s finals. 

Team relays would continue to be a source of scoring for the Rams on day two. Bumped up by the disqualification of Davidson’s team, the 200 meter freestyle team of Zadorozny, Kreuscher, Thomas and Renna finished in 10th place recording a time of 1:35.37, earning 14 points.

Benavides and Hsu were back in action on day three, combining for five team points. Benavides’ 1:04.26 finish in the 100-meter breaststroke was good for 13th place out of 30 swimmers, earning her a spot in Friday’s consolation finals. She finished 16th in the final, earning one team point. 

Hsu picked up a 235.25-point score in the 3-meter dive, picking up three team points in what was the third-best finish among all freshmen and reaching her second final in three days.

Rhode Island’s team scoring would conclude on day three with a 14 point swim in the 400 meter team relay, as second-year Jackie Triglia, Renna, Thomas and Zadorozny finished in 10th place.

Finally, day four saw performances from Benavides and Hacker conclude the championships on a high note. Benavides’ 2:20.42 finish in the 200 meter breaststroke earned three team points in her second consolation final of the championships, while Hacker’s 13th place finish in the 200 meter butterfly also saw her reach the consolation final.

In the final, Hacker would improve by three places, finishing in 2:04.81 to earn four team points. 

Relay scoring continued for the Rams. Once again aided by the disqualification of Massachusetts, URI’s team of first-year Lyndsey Warner, Zadorozny, Bonvissuto and Kreuscher earned 14 team points with a time of 3:28.38.

Rhode Island finished the championships in 11th place with 83 team points, 36 points behind 10th-place St. Louis. 

“It’s a really tough conference, and this year it was a lot faster than it’s been in the past in certain events,” Deering said. “Overall, it was a really great meet, definitely more successful than we’ve been in the past.”

With several of Rhode Island’s top finishers being underclassmen, Deering was confident in the team’s ability to continue to grow in the coming years, with yet another season in the books.

“We have momentum, and I definitely see us finishing better next year, getting more girls back to finals,” Deering said. “The conference continues to get faster and faster each year, but our girls know that we’re capable of being competitive in it, and I think they really saw that this year.”

Now, with the season complete, the focus will shift to a long and bust offseason for the Rams, as they get set to reload for the start of the 2023-24 season in September.