FORT WASHINGTON -- When the waves in Franklin & Marshall College’s pool finally settled on Feb. 26, 2022, Germantown Academy swimming & diving head coach Jeff Thompson was left wanting more. After spending 20 months thinking about taking home the Easterns Interscholastic Swimming & Diving Championship trophy, the Patriots had finally done it, but something was off. The boys team had placed second overall behind Mercersburg Academy, their best finish at Easterns since 2012, not including the virtual version of the meet held in 2021. Meanwhile, the girls ran away with the title by more than 200 points, giving GA a more-than-comfortable lead in the team title standings. However, Thompson was not satisfied with the results.
“I felt we were swimming to not lose the meet instead of swimming to maximize our capabilities,” Thompson said. “We performed really well on the boards and in the pool, but even after each session, I found myself wanting a little bit more. The distraction of trying to win the meet, I think, got in the way of some of our performances and we’re going to try and right that ship this year.”
Thompson continued to say that he felt as if the team was too safe a year ago, focusing too much on “not screwing up.” He added that he did not think the team was swimming tensely, but that they knew if they did their jobs, the meet would go well. This season, the mindset is entirely different.
The team is preparing like they usually do at this point of the season – tapering down at the end of the year to ensure everyone is at their freshest – but rather than focusing solely on winning the meet, the group has turned their attention to simply swimming as fast as possible.
“Last year there was a lot of chatter about winning that meet and we were really outcome focused and I feel like there was a shift in April or May of 2022 as we got a couple months past that and the kids started talking more about the process leading into Easterns, even though we were months away at that point,” Thompson said. “And I’m to blame for it because I set the tone. This group has really grown from then, I think even they left wanting more last year. After the celebration, they had time to reflect and said, ‘we left some meat on the bone.’”
While the GA swimmers will be traveling to F&M, the divers will remain in Fort Washington and compete on campus. Head Diving Coach Tom Henninger '07 said that being able to dive off the boards that the team is used to using offers incredible advantages.
“Every board is a little different, and it’s a lot of timing and rhythm,” Henninger said. “The kids know the boards really well because they’re on them six days a week. It also helps with spotting. While they’re flipping around, they have certain spots they need to pick up, and they’re used to those in the home pool. We know the pool, we know our spots, and we have our area where we get into our routine.”
The Patriots had two female divers and three male divers finish in the top eight of their respective divisions a year ago, but Henninger said he hopes to see the group show more style and ease, or “steeze,” this time around.
“That was our word for the year,” Henninger said. “We talked to the divers a little last week and my main expectation is for them to enjoy it. We talked about how many kick-outs they’ve done, how much dry land work we’ve done, how much they’ve lifted, and the hours of work that they’ve put in. We’re just focusing on keeping it casual and fun, being quiet and confident and letting our hard work show at the meet.”
The Patriots go into Easterns with plenty of expectations. On the girls side, GA is seeded first for all three relays, while Taylor Grimley '24 and Eliza Meth '23 were awarded the No. 1 seeds in the 100 Butterfly and 100 Breaststroke, respectively. For the boys, Landon D’Ariano '24 received the No. 1 seed in the 200 IM and 500 Freestyle, while the 400 Freestyle Relay team also earned a top seed.
As is the case with almost every meet this season, records are on the line. Thompson pointed out a few swimmers that are eyeing special times, but did not want to go into detail to avoid any jinxing. While some are focused on records, there are others with even bigger prizes in mind.
“The girls and I talked about a National Championship for the Independent Schools,” Thompson said. “So that’s a goal. Winning Easterns and placing first in events and breaking records is fun, but I think some of the kids, now that they’ve done that, they’re looking beyond that and just thinking about how fast they can go.
We have a lot of confidence coming out of the season, we had a great year performance-wise,” Thompson said. “I just want to make sure when we walk away from the meet this year – regardless of the size of the trophy – that we maximized every bit of potential we had.”
Both days of swimming begin at 9am with preliminaries, with finals taking place at 6pm. Diving takes place at Germantown Academy, with the boys starting at 5pm on Friday, and the girls beginning at 9am on Saturday.