Lehigh swimmers and divers pose after the Patriot League Championships in Annapolis, Maryland, on Feb. 17. The women’s team came in third place, and the men placed sixth. (Courtesy of Megan Fennell)

Lehigh swimming and diving showcases talent at Patriot League Championships

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Freshman Megan Fennell was filled with shock and disbelief as her teammates rushed to congratulate her on making Lehigh diving history at the Patriot League Championships.

Fennell became the first person in the diving program’s history to be named the Patriot League Female Diver of the Meet at the championships. She also won the first women’s 1-meter dive title for the university and broke her record from November 2017 with a score of 270.5 points.

The diver was one of three Mountain Hawks who won individual titles and were named to the All-Patriot League First Team for the women.

Coach Rob Herb was recognized as the Patriot League women’s coach of the year for the second year in a row and the third time in his Lehigh career for his team’s performance at the championships.

“This honor is shared with everyone,” Herb said, “the team and everyone that helped.”

While the women’s team found success overall, many members of Lehigh’s swimming and diving program exceeded expectations at the competition in Annapolis, Maryland, from Feb. 14-17 .

Fennell said the hard work the Mountain Hawks put in throughout the season paid off during their championship run. Senior Meghan Thompson agreed and said the program was able to perform so well by carrying the momentum it set during the first day of the championships through the final day.

The men’s team placed sixth overall with 282.5 points, and the women took home third place for the second season in a row with 543 points — the team’s highest total since 2001, when it won the championships with 637.5 points.

Combined, both teams set 11 school records, and the women claimed four championship titles, including Fennell’s individual title.

The 200 freestyle relay team of freshman Ann Foley, sophomore Payton Miles, senior Julianne Koch and Thompson won the event with a time of 1:31.41, setting a school record. This was the second time in program history that Lehigh won the women’s 200 freestyle relay.

Miles claimed an individual title in the 100 freestyle with a school record of 50.04, and Thompson went home with her own title in the 200 freestyle with a Lehigh record of 1:47.54. The league titles were both women’s second in their collegiate swimming careers.

The women’s combined three individual titles were the most the team has won since 2000.

For the second straight season, seven members of the women’s program earned All-Patriot League honors, including Fennell, Miles and Thompson who were named to the all-league first team. This was Miles’ and Thompson’s second time making the first team.

Sophomore Walker Wilson received all-league honors for the first time, earning a spot on the second team for his contribution to three of the records set by the men’s team, two of which were his individual records.

Herb said he was extremely proud of his program’s performance and success at the championships. He said it was a true team effort and recognized the entire department — including strength coaches, sports psychologists and sports medicine professionals — for its support and dedication.

Lehigh swimmers and divers pose after the Patriot League Championships in Annapolis, Maryland on Feb. 17. The women’s team came in third place and the men’s team came in sixth place. (Courtesy Megan Fennel)

While the swimming and diving season is long and demanding, Herb said his athletes stayed focused on the goals they wanted to reach and the resources they needed to achieve them. This is what allowed them to finish on a high note.

The women’s team concluded its season 6-2 overall with a 4-1 league record. The men finished with an overall record of 5-5 and a conference record of 3-2.

Moving forward, the program is graduating several seniors who are leaving behind a lasting impact that will challenge the rest of the Mountain Hawks to fill their gaps.

Herb said it’s been an honor working with the seniors and watching them grow over the last four years.

“We have a strong and loving group of seniors leaving a lasting legacy and underclassmen waiting to fill their shoes,” Herb said.

Some of the graduating Mountain Hawks, however, will continue to support the Lehigh swimming and diving program. Julia Perry and Jimmy Davey will move into the graduate assistant roles for next season, and Pat Champagne will compete as a super-senior.

Although she’s still adjusting to her swimming career being over, Thompson said she was pleased with how her final season at Lehigh ended.

She said each year since her rookie season, the swimming and diving program has become more competitive and talented. The team grew from 17 to 32 girls in Thompson’s time as a Mountain Hawk, giving Lehigh more options and diversity.

By leaving behind her own legacy, Thompson is giving the team something to strive for in the future.

“I’d love to see more Patriot League champions and the team get to second place,” she said.

The women’s team is already focusing on its goal of beating Army and moving into the second-place position next season.

With a talented group of incoming Mountain Hawks and a cohesive program of returning swimmers, the women’s goal is within reach.

“I really have high hopes for next year,” Fennell said.

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