The Colgate Scene
|By Isaac Goodling '08|
Colgate swimmers anxiously look on during a heat against Army in Lineberry Natatorium last October -- just one record-breaking meet in the team's unprecedented year. During the week they secured their first-ever undefeated regular season; women's swimming beat both Cornell and Bucknell for the first time in 20 years. [Photo by Timothy D. Sofranko]
At the beginning of the season, the Colgate women's swim team was picked to finish third in the Patriot League, a ranking that some would have seen as optimistic after their distant fourth-place finish at the league championships in 2005. But by the end of the year, the self-proclaimed "feisty ladies" had proven themselves to be some of the best swimmers ever to pass through Lineberry Natatorium -- going undefeated in the Patriot League during the regular season and finishing second at the championship by the slimmest margin in league history.
To do so took extraordinary leadership from senior captains Chrissy Zaika and Amy Cole, one of the most talented first-year classes in Colgate history, and a tremendous effort from every swimmer on what head coach Stephen Jungbluth called one of the closest teams that he has ever coached.
When looked at collectively, the numbers put up by the 2005-2006 Raiders are astounding. Records began falling during the first meet of the year, and by the conclusion of the Patriot League Championship, 14 varsity records had been broken, as well as 13 of the 15 freshman records.
Perhaps most impressive, though, was the way in which these accomplishments took a backseat to the team atmosphere that truly made it such a tremendous season for Colgate women's swimming.
"I think the one thing that everyone will remember about this season is the way that everyone came together," Jungbluth said. "We took a team and forged together, and to see the camaraderie and the loyalty build up was phenomenal. I think that everyone is going to remember that more than any stat or record."
Much of that team-oriented spirit emanated from senior co-captains Zaika and Cole, who in addition to their contributions in the pool were integral to helping the first-years adjust to college swimming.
"We wouldn't have done any of this without their leadership," Jungbluth said. "Their poise and work ethic were a critical part of what the team became at the end of the year. Amy and Chrissy really played a central role in developing the team's character. They both work incredibly hard and lead by example, and the younger swimmers really look up to them."
Those younger swimmers provided much of the impetus for this season's success, particularly the heralded trio of Emily Murphy, Beverly Walker, and Lisa Marchi, who were responsible for a number of broken records. The expectations for the three were high; each had won state championships in their respective events in high school -- and they continued to excel in their first college season. In fact, Murphy was named the Rookie of the Meet at the league championship, the first Colgate swimmer to win a major award in more than a decade.
"It was really a great honor because there are a lot of very talented freshmen in the Patriot League this year," Murphy said. "I thought that there were a number of girls who could have won it, so it was very flattering. It was important that I was able to help my team as much as possible."
En route to receiving the award, Murphy won three individual events and was part of four gold-medal relays, each of which set a new league record. Walker and Marchi also shone, winning three events between them and each playing a part in the record-breaking relay teams. All three were named to the All-Patriot League first team, along with Zaika.
As was expected when he came from a highly successful program at Navy, Jungbluth has turned around the women's swim team. Prior to his appointment in 2003, the Raiders were rarely in contention for a Patriot League championship, but have now finished second twice in the past three years -- in spite of having one of the smallest rosters in the league, winning with what Walker calls "quality, not quantity."
"He has a mindset for winning that has really helped us change the culture," Zaika said of Jungbluth. "There has definitely been a lot of improvement during his time here."
As Zaika and Cole prepare to move on to postgraduate life, they are clearly pleased with the four years they spent at Colgate.
"We're a very close-knit community, both generally and especially on the team," Cole said. "There's a lot of pride at Colgate. I've loved being a Raider."
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