PENSACOLA, Fla. – The University of West Florida swimming and diving team recognized 13 student-athletes before the final home meet of their careers on Saturday, which resulted in a 103-42 win over Ouachita Baptist.
“I think what summarizes this group is the fact that they’re coming from all different backgrounds, they’ve had all kinds of different ways of looking at the sport, and looking at UWF,” head coach Andrew Hancock said. “But they’ve all come together and shared a common goal of trying to make this team as competitive and outstanding as it could be, and for that I’m incredibly thankful.
“We’ve had success. That success has come from individual struggle, and they’ve had to learn and grow. And that’s part of the process that you learn by the time you get to being a college senior. When you reflect on that journey as a collective, that’s when you really get a true sense of how special this group is and how far they’ve come.”
The senior group came out in full force in the meet, as departing student-athletes won, or had a hand in winning, 10 of the 14 possible events, and UWF won all 14 events over OBU.
The group of seniors included six members of the inaugural UWF swimming and diving team from 2013 – Mikaela Aponte, Nicole Harder, Karisa Kostecki, Allison Lehr, Carla Robles and Meghan Zets. The group also included five All-Americans who have totaled 21 All-American honors between them, and two national champions.
“I can’t believe how far the program has come in the last three-and-a-half years,” Harder said. “What I’m looking forward to most is spending a lot of time with my teammates and making the most out of the last couple of weeks that I have left.”
In addition to the six members of the original team, it was the final home meet for Mikaela Aponte, Ana Cristina de Paula, Mariana de Paula, Rebecca Halfast, Nicole Machado, Amelia Strom and reigning CSCAA national champions Monica Amaral and Theresa Michalak.
“Honestly, this is one of the best programs I’ve seen in the country,” Robles said. “I’ve never seen a swim team treat each other like family the way this one does. It’s really hard to let go of all these girls now, but we’re strong, we’re strong, and we’ll always be friends.”
West Florida will head to Birmingham for a tri-meet against Birmingham Southern and Sewanee on January 13, before visiting Emory and Delta State in Atlanta on January 21.