On Saturday, Oct. 1, Sacred Heart University’s swimming and diving team had their annual pentathlon at McCann Natatorium in Milford. This marked the beginning of the 2022-23 season for the Pioneers.
Senior Casey Barrett won the pentathlon, and she also won the event last year.
Over the course of her career at SHU, Barrett has become a major part of the team.
“Casey is one of the fastest freestylers on the team,” said Coach John Spadafina. “She could end up being one of the fastest freestylers to come out of this program by the end of the year.”
Not only has she earned the respect of her coaches, her teammates respect her as well.
“We definitely all want to send Casey and the other seniors off with a good relay,” said sophomore Rosemery Nieto, who currently holds the 100 yard breaststroke record at SHU.
Olivia McNicholas took home the diving title, setting a new one-meter pentathlon record. Last season, McNicholas was the first SHU diver in 11 years to win the Northeast Conference (NEC) diving title.
“All the other divers know my name and I’m the one that they are out to beat,” said McNicholas.
Adam Vance, the program’s diving coach, was named NEC Diving Coach of the Year a year ago thanks in large part to McNicholas’s prowess.
“He sets a program for our divers and has done a fantastic job, and that shouldn’t go without notice,” said Spadafina.
Spadafina put praise not only on Vance but on McNicholas as well.
“Olivia is going to be a rock throughout the entire season, and not only as one of the best divers in the conference but also as a leader on our team,” said Spadafina.
Leadership is another big part of this team, and it is up to the more experienced athletes to show the younger athletes the ropes.
“As a senior, I feel as though leading as an example is an important part of the role,” said Barrett. “Using the past three years of experience helps me lead the younger classes throughout their season.”
This teaching process leads to a family-like culture, a culture that Spadafina has been searching for since taking over the Pios.
“My goal when I took over the program nine years ago was to build a family,” said Spadafina.
Since Spadafina took over the reins nine years ago, SHU’s swimming and diving team has been on the rise.
“When I took over the program, we had 14 kids on the team,” said Spadafina.
This season, the roster is at 36.
“In the 25-year history of the program, our preseason poll this season is the highest Sacred Heart has ever been polled,” said Spadafina.
The Pioneers were projected to finish 4th in the NEC preseason poll.
Their regular season is now underway, with the team having competed in two meets to begin their 2022-23 campaign. On Oct. 7 and 8, they competed at the Fairfield Invitational, finishing fourth, and on Oct. 15, they competed in the Iona Double Dual in New Rochelle, N.Y., with Iona University and Wagner College. SHU swept the diving competition, with McNicholas taking home the crown in the three-meter dive and fellow teammate Lola Barrett emerging victorious in the one-meter.
Their next meet is on Oct. 29 when they travel to Long Island to take on Stony Brook University.
Sacred Heart Athletics contributed to this article.
Photo: Dannia Jadan