Lehigh's women swimming and diving teams compete at the Patriot League Championship on Feb. 15 in Lewisburg Pennsylvania. (Courtesy of Lehigh Sports)

Lehigh swimming and diving looks to ‘sharpen the blade’


In preparation for the Patriot League Championships, Lehigh Swimming and Diving is focusing on what head coach Rob Herb calls “sharpening the blade.”

Herb credits the team’s success in their regular season with their hard work. He expects them to find similar success in the postseason, which will take place at Bucknell’s campus from Feb. 16-19.

Herb said he anticipates multiple swimmers on the men’s team to excel in the Patriot League Championships as part of a well-balanced effort.

“The men’s team is very even with talent, so it’s hard to pick out a superstar,” Herb said. 

For the women’s team, senior butterfly swimmer Sarah Hardy has the opportunity to build on a breakout year, which included three first-place finishes against Bucknell on Jan. 21. 

Hardy finished in the top 10 of the 400-yard IM relay at the Patriot League Championship last year.

“In my opinion, we’ll lower (her) time by at least two seconds, so she has the potential to have a really amazing meet,” Herb said. 

He expects first-years Mairin Ludwig and Caitlin Deitch to show some of the speed they have showcased throughout the regular season. Ludwig finished second in the 1,650-yard freestyle at the Bison Invite on Jan. 28, and Deitch won the 50-yard freestyle in a tight win against Seton Hall on Jan. 13. He expects junior Julia Stevens will perform well, too. 

“All year we forge the blade making sure that it’s ready to go,” Herb said. “We go from the hard-hammering work and the pain work of molding, to the very fine, specific speedwork like starts, turns and relay takeoffs—all these things that now make a difference.”

Herb said fine-tuning these skills — something the coaches have placed emphasis on — is crucial whenever competing swimmers have similar times. He said small adjustments can shave four or five-tenths of a second off a swimmer’s time, which might be enough to edge past the competition. 

“Our leadership has been spot on,” Herb said. “The athletes on the team have been incredibly engaging, and our new coaching staff has been fantastically innovative and enthusiastic.” 

As a senior, Hardy said she has no expectations going into her last two meets. 

“I am just going into every race as if it is my last time swimming,” Hardy said. “I am swimming as hard and as fast as I can.”

Hardy said the eased COVID restrictions of this season have made the team more excited to race. Unlike the past few years, there are no restrictions on who they can compete against. 

Hardy said the eased restrictions have also promoted more involved practice methods and competition. The team even traveled to Naples, Florida, for training.

“Our team has been working really hard these last few months,” first-year swimmer Aaron Williams said. “We have high expectations going into the Patriot League Championships. We know we can do this.” 

Despite this being Williams’ debut year on the men’s team, he’s proved to be one of the most talented competitors on the roster, winning the 100-yard butterfly and being a part of two winning relay teams against Lafayette.

Williams said although he is nervous going into his first postseason, the team’s veterans have welcomed him and the other first-years and are helping them to mentally prepare for the meet.

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