Cambridge, Mass. -- It was a two horse race last year at the America East men's swimming and diving championships, with Boston U. coming out victorious over UMBC. The two teams were separated by 50 points in the final standings, but were the only schools to break 800 points at the meet. This year, with Boston U. ineligible to compete in the America East championship, it appears UMBC is the odds on favorite to win its ninth title in 10 years since joining the America East.
After its first season as runner-up in nine years, UMBC returns seven of its 10 all-conference performers for 2011-12. Among those returnees are both the Most Outstanding Swimmer (senior Mohamed Hussein) and the Most Outstanding Diver (senior Andrew Eckhoff) from last year's championship. Hussein (Cairo, Egypt) set America East conference records in both the 100 backstroke and the 200 individual medley in his big weekend which included three individual wins. Eckhoff (Chelmsford, Mass.) swept the diving events, breaking a long streak of Boston U. supremecy. Another important returnee for the Retrievers is senior Pierre De Waal (Pretoria, South Africa), the America East record holder in the 200 backstroke, who won three times at last year's championship.
Boston U. is bringing back nine of its 11 all-conference performers from a year ago, but they lose Daniel Kempf, who brought home three individual golds at the America East championship. The Terriers do have the good fortune of returning the Most Oustanding Rookie from last year's championship, however, in Connor Stuewe (Monterey, Calif.). Look for him to have an impact in the 200 free and the 100 backstroke this season. Junior Jared Scheck (Pittsburgh, Pa.) should be the top challenger to UMBC's Eckhoff in the diving events, while classmate Nik Astashinsky (Carmel, Ind.) will be a factor in medley and backstroke events.
Coming in a distant third last year, Binghamton was squarely in the middle of the pack. With three all-conference performers back this year, they look to push UMBC for conference supremecy. Sophomore Devin Zdanowski (Rochester, N.Y.) will again be a threat in the diving events, after taking third in the three meter event a year ago. Tim Cabasino (Long Beach, N.Y.) is back for his senior season and looking to make his mark in the 100 free after finishing second to Kempf at last year's championship.
Maine brought up the rear at last year's championship and returns a young squad for 2012-13. The only senior on the Black Bears' squad, Yuri Chornobil (Rochester, N.Y.), should be a threat in the 1650-yard freestyle with the graduation of Binghamton's Nolan Slesnick, last year's winner. Chornobil finished fifth in that event a year ago and will have to lead a roster than includes 15 underclassmen.
Stony Brook will not swim this season, as the Seawolves are in a competitive hiatus. Renovations to the facilities will accompany the program's anticipated return in 2013-14.
A pair of squads will get the season underway on Saturday, when UMBC hosts Rider at 1:00 p.m., and Boston U. hosts Masschusetts at 1:30 p.m. Maine (at Rhode Island) will open on October 26 and Binghamton (vs. Boston U.) will begin on the following day.
The season will culminate at the University of Maine for this year's America East championship which take place February 14-17.