Since Sept. 22, 2018, the JMU swim and dive team’s season has been building up to one thing: the CAA championships. Now that the time has arrived, the Dukes will don their goggles and silicone caps to race and dive against their conference rivals.
Coming into the meet, JMU boasts a stellar 9-2-1 record — undefeated (4-0) in the conference — and is on a three-match win streak, which includes dominant victories over Marshall, Richmond and George Washington. During JMU’s last dual meet, sophomore backstroker Paige Assaid, junior breaststroker Megan Marsh, sophomore sprint freestyler Anna Ober and senior sprint butterflyer Jillian Breeger touched the wall at 1:44.22, breaking the Savage Natatorium pool record for the 200-meter medley relay.
Sophomore divers Faith Anderson and Emily Gross posted NCAA Zone qualifying scores of 299.71 and 290.25, respectively. The team is heading into the CAA Tournament with positive momentum reinforced by numerous season-best performances.
“I expect that all of us are probably going to dive the best we have the entire season,” junior Hope Byrum, who competes in both the 1- and 3-meter dive, said. “I really feel like when we’re up against CAA competition, the best in all of us comes out. I think that’s really cool. We had our diving invitational, and we were all diving almost as good, if not better, than we have the entire season.”
Like any serious athlete, the Dukes are competitive, and the team enjoys the opportunity to dominate its conference rivals. It’s all friendly in nature, and Wednesday, when the CAAs finally begin, JMU will look to dominate once again.
At the tournament, the team will undertake one of the most difficult tasks in all of sports — defending a championship. The Dukes placed first at the CAA Tournament last year, and if they can win it all again, it’ll mark the fourth time in school history the Dukes have won consecutive championships.
“At this point, routine is really important,” head coach Dane Pedersen said. “We try to just stay in our routine both in the physical side and what our message to them is which is focus on the things, the variables that are in their control. How much sleep they’re getting, their nutrition, keeping up with their academics so their stress levels are in control. Those are messages that we teach all year long, but obviously in this stage of our training, rest is really, really important.”
However, the team isn’t flustered over filling out its trophy case. The swimmers and divers are taking the season one moment, one week and one meet at a time, and the squad has learned to detach itself from its meet results.
“Individually and as a team, things have gone right, gone wrong, but we know that we can come out stronger,” senior distance freestyler Madison Oster said. “We’re excited for that. Going into the meet, not with any specific expectations, just knowing that we’re going to be there for each other and that’s enough to get us to the desirable outcome, whatever that may be.”
The team carries a mature, stoic attitude and knows a bad individual performance, or even a bad meet, doesn’t mean the sky is falling.
The Dukes take their sport just as seriously — if not more seriously — than their peers. There’s no lack of effort in their practices and their preparation is meticulous, it’s just that the Dukes aren’t intimidated by the outcomes of their events. By focusing on what it can control, the team has liberated itself of self-doubt and developed the confidence to perform to the best of its abilities at all times and against all obstacles.
“Something challenging, some adversity is going to happen,” Pederson said. “All you can do is know that you have the tools, so to speak, in your metaphorical tool belt to handle any adversity, to be bigger than that moment and not let the negativity pull you down and overcome it.”
The swim and dive team knows how to win — 2010 is the last time the Dukes finished outside of the top two in the CAA. With their unflappable mentality, championship aspirations and sound preparation, the Dukes are poised to make waves at the CAA Tournament.
Contact the Michael Turner at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more swim and dive coverage, follow the sports desk on Twitter @TheBreezeSports.