The Queens men’s and women’s swimming teams are pretty intimidating. At the 2018 NCAA National Championship Meet, where some schools only qualified one swimmer, Queens entered with a formidable 29-person force.
“When our team walks on the deck, everybody just stops and looks at us,” said Queens senior swimmer McKenzie Stevens.
Four NCAA Championship Titles over the past four years, on both the men’s and women’s side, fuel that intimidation. This year, in typical dominant fashion, the men took first by 251 points and the women by 173.5 points. In route to the team titles, Queens swimmers grabbed 17 individual titles while setting seven NCAA Division II records.
Four team titles in a row means that this year’s senior class graduates undefeated at the NCAA National Championships. It seems that these seniors simply do not know how to do anything but win.
“I couldn’t be prouder of this senior class, men and women,” said Jeff Dugdale, Director of Swimming Operations, “we have done it over and over and in many different ways.”
McKenzie Stevens said that “every year has been a little different.” Her freshman year was the first in school history and will always be special. Sophomore year was the biggest margin of victory, whereas junior year they were not the national favorites. This year, according to Dugdale, the seniors “carried the championship home with grit, with hard work, with persistence, and with resilience.”
At six in the morning at the Levine Center pool, this grit and hard work can be seen firsthand. Championships never come easily, as these swimmers can tell you after putting in 20 hours per week all season. Morning practices, afternoon practices, and weight lifting add up to a grueling weekly training regimen that produces undeniably good results.
However, the work does not stop when they get out of the pool. Dugdale emphasized that they put in this work on top of going to school – the women have a 3.7 team GPA – and focusing on their individual recoveries through rehab in the training room. This recovery is vital, Dugdale said. “One of the reasons I think we won by the margins we did is that we stayed healthy all year.”
Not to be overshadowed is the chemistry of both teams. The first thing Queens swimming does every year is a team bonding trip to the lake, where goals are set and freshmen are welcomed into the fold. “There’s no more initiation [after the recruiting process],” Dugdale said, “so it becomes different. That’s huge for our program, that’s what stands out.”
This goes a long way toward explaining why Stevens and Dugdale continually refer to the team as a “family.” There is just something different about their culture.
While this senior class has experienced unparalleled success, they have also been unselfishly paving the way for future championships.
“While other sports don’t necessarily want to recruit someone better than them, this senior class always recruited a class better than them,” Dugdale said. “We’re big on seeing not only how fast a recruit is, but also how they would fit in with the team, because that makes a difference,” Stevens said.
This senior class is the most decorated class of any sport in the history of Queens Athletics, but Dugdale said that “they are going to pass the torch to probably one of our best classes ever coming in next year.”
Queens men’s and women’s swimming may be losing some talented seniors, but they are reloading in full, intimidating force. Swimming programs around the nation, beware: this is a dynasty.
Image courtesy of Queens Athletics.