The Spider women's swim team celebrates their A-10 championship victory in the pool


The champs are here (again)

Spider swimming and diving returned to the top of the Atlantic 10 with a commanding performance in the 2021 championship.

“These women were on fire.”

What better words than these from Spider swimming and diving head coach Matt Barany? They sum up the Spiders’ performance as they brought back their 16th Atlantic 10 championship of the last 20 seasons.

This latest championship was a no-doubter on the final day. The Spiders ended the third day of the four-day tournament with a commanding 73.5-point lead and the knowledge that 18 competitors qualified for the finals of their respective events on the final day. The team finished with the highest point total of any A-10 champion since the 2013 Spiders.

“We had 39 personal-best times this week,” Barany said at tournament’s end. “They were outrageously good.”

Before this year’s championship, Barany admitted that he wasn’t sure what to expect. Health and safety considerations related to the pandemic curtailed the schedule, and the team hadn’t participated in as much competition as in a typical year.

“The excitement around going to a championship meet is pretty powerful,” he said before the tournament. “But I think the idea that we’re all passionate athletes and we’re just looking to race — I think that’s probably going to shake the inner spirit more.”

Multiple Spiders brought home individual hardware. Junior Maggie Purcell highlighted the individual award winners, winning gold in the 200-yard individual medley and the 200-yard breaststroke and bronze in the 400-yard individual medley. She was also part of three medal-winning relay teams.

We’re going to hold onto these memories for a long time.
Matt Barany
Head coach

Sophomore Lauren Medlin made her mark in the freestyle races. She took first and set a school record in the 100-yard freestyle and was the lead leg of the 400-yard freestyle relay that took first. She finished third in the 50-yard freestyle and added a pair of fourth-place finishes in two other events.

The A-10 named freshman Alexa Connors the meet’s Most Outstanding Rookie Performer. She finished with three silver medals and tallied points as part of the 800-yard freestyle relay and the fourth-place 200-yard freestyle relay team. She took home a silver medal in the 500 freestyle and the 1,650 freestyle while winning sixth place in the 200 freestyle race.

Barany has built a legitimate dynasty at Richmond by embracing what he calls an “athletics is education” approach. Just as in the water, his teams also succeed in the classroom, having earned Scholar All-America Team designation from the College Swimming Coaches Association 10 consecutive years. Multiple Spiders on his team have earned the Academic All-American distinction, and in 2013 Mali Kobelja was the first Spider — and A-10 swimmer — to earn A-10 Scholar of the Year honors.

Although championships have come in a steady stream during his tenure, he often says that each one is different. This year’s was marked by ongoing adaptability as the pandemic changed rhythms and disrupted routines.

“When we look back at this time, I think a lot of people will try to block out COVID and all that went with it from their memory, but we’re going to hold onto these memories for a long time,” he said. “I’m extremely proud of these ladies. How they have performed not only at this meet, but how they’ve handled this entire year, is truly remarkable.”