Swim Heads to Big East Championship


Courtesy of Villanova Athletics

Swim and Dive will participate in the Big East Championships this week.

Zac Tipton, Staff Writer

On Wednesday, the Villanova swimming and diving teams will head to East Meadow, New York for the Big East Championships. The men have not won a Big East Championship since 1993 but have finished second twice in the last four years, including last year and in 2018. However, the women have won the last eight Big East Championships and are poised to continue that streak. 

Consistent teams at the top of the men’s side include Xavier, Seton Hall, Georgetown and Villanova, which will continue this year with only Providence having the potential to jump into that top four. The women have usually been involved in a two-team race with Georgetown, as in the team’s eight consecutive championships, Georgetown has finished second six times with Xavier earning one second-place finish in 2019. However, with UConn rejoining the Big East, it gave Villanova a run for its money last year, losing by just 68 points, and will most likely do the same this year. In the teams’ earlier matchup this season, Villanova beat UConn in a close 166-133 duel in October. 

Men’s swimming has struggled this year but has had key performances from Reid Hutcherson, Charlie Hinckley, Jake McIntyre, Nolan Danus and Kevin Geist. Andrew Mitchell, Ethan Brown, Henry Halloran and Richard Nolan have done incredible things this year as well. In the diving category, Michael Ackert and Nicholas Jubilee have both had much success. Ackert is a two-time Big East champion, as he won both the one and three meter dives in the 2020-21 Big East Championships.

Multiple other Wildcats have championship experience as well. Hutcherson recorded personal best times in the 200, 500 and 100 meter freestyle relays all in the championships. Nolan is a Big East Champion in three different events, the 200 Breaststroke, 200 Individual Medley and 400 IM. This team is incredibly young, so it will have to put some of its best runs together to compete at the Big East, but it has the talent to do it and be a threat for years to come. 

The women, on the other hand, haven’t struggled this season, having won almost every event they entered. They have put together one of the strongest veteran classes in the Big East. 

The dynamic duo of senior Kelly Montesi and graduate student Milly Routledge have been a part of this team for a very long time and combined for 13 individual championships and 20 relay gold medals. They have also each won Big East Championships Most Outstanding Female Swimmer in the past three years, with Montesi winning it last year and in 2018-19 and Routledge winning it in the 2019-20 season. This duo has continued their success this season, winning almost all of the events they compete in, and will lead their team on Long Island. 

It’s not just these two. Senior Nicole Welch has been a part of five of those relay teams and won a gold in the 1650 freestyle backstroke in 2018-19. Junior Perri Stahl has been on three of those teams as well, and senior Abbey Berloco was on four of them in the past two years. Sophomore Lexi Elkovitch was in two relays that won last year, and senior Grace Wielar won two in 2019-20. Sophomore Audrey Pastorek won as a freshman in the 200 backstroke last year, and junior Kaitlin Gravell won in the 200 breaststroke in 2019-20. That same year, junior Margaret Kleinsmith won in the 100 breaststroke. This season, Villanova also added graduate transfer Elizabeth Bailey from Cal, who has incredible PAC-12 Championship experience. 

This team is loaded with veteran talent, and given that this will be Routledge’s last year, and Montesi is a senior, the women will be looking to get back to the top in possibly their final meet.