By Andrew Yourell, Staff Writer
Swasey Pool’s record board rests high on the wall at the foot of the pool, showing off the fastest times swam by the UNH team. Senior Katie Mann has her full name next to four individual events, and at the end of the season, she will be joined by freshmen Liza Baykova and Jess Harper, who both broke individual records this season. All three garnered multiple individual wins and accolades at the America East Conference Championships.
Far less prominent on the record board is the last name “Broderick,” one of four last names next to the team’s 200-yard freestyle relay record. While sophomore Sarah Broderick has not been awarded the same individual awards as her three teammates, she rounds out the quartet that will head to the University of Pittsburgh to swim in the ECAC Championships Friday, Feb. 27, to Sunday, March 1.
“I guess you could say that I have flown under the radar a bit this year because we have some outstanding swimmers on our team,” she said. “Katie, Jess, and Liza are amazing swimmers that I look up to … They have done so well this season and I am proud to be their teammate.”
While others might chafe under the relative anonymity, Broderick has maintained a positive, team-first attitude; this attitude and her hard work have allowed her to flourish this season. Individually, she shattered her own personal record in the 100 backstroke, winning the event at the conference meet. She also tallied a runner-up medal in the 100 freestyle and bronze in the 50 freestyle at the meet.
Perhaps her most impressive work, however, was the effort that she poured into her relay swims. Broderick anchored the 200 medley relay, and her split of 22.55 seconds launched the ‘Cats to a third place finish, within half a second of the winning team from Binghamton. She took part in the 400 medley relay as the backstroke leg, giving the team a lead they would not surrender, swam the fastest leg of the 200 freestyle relay, and anchored the conference record-setting 400 free relay.
“Relays are one of my favorite parts of a swim meet. It’s not just you swimming for yourself, but you are swimming for three other people as well,” Broderick said of her role in the relays. “Some people think swimming is more of an individual sport but at [America East] championships like that, it’s crazy to see how much of a team sport swimming can really be.”
For Broderick, the ECAC Championships will be in stark contrast to this sentiment, as only she, Baykova, Harper, and Mann will compete, and the focus is placed on individual achievement. This year will mark the first time she has earned the honor of swimming at ECACs.
“Last year, the coaches went to the meet with a few more girls than this year’s group of four. I think I’m really lucky to be able to go this year and have a second chance to swim in a championship-style meet in a fast pool,” she said.
Broderick said of the opportunity. She added that she does not know what to expect, but fortunately she has an experienced mentor to look to in Mann.
Mann, a two-time NCAA qualifier who placed 19th in the country last year in the 400-yard individual medley, will be competing in her fourth and final ECAC final. She’s fresh off individual victories at America East in the 400 IM and 200 butterfly, and was the runner-up in the 200 IM.
“Our team lives by the motto, honor your teammates with your effort,” said Mann, who, much like her younger teammate, draws inspiration from the team. “I can leave this program knowing that I have done just that, with, of course, the help of every single teammate.”
Mann boasts one of the most impressive résumés in school history, with a handful of school and pool records, appearances at the NCAA Championships, and multiple America East awards, both for her prowess in the pool and the classroom. Her experience and leadership has only galvanized Broderick and the younger swimmers.
“I’ve been talking with Katie … and everything she tells me just makes me more excited to go,” said Broderick. “This upcoming weekend all of us will be trying to motivate ourselves and each other to do well and get best times in our events, because the reason we are there is not for points, but to accomplish some personal goals each of us have.”
For an athlete who spent this season putting team goals above her own ego, the chance to go out and compete for her own goals is Broderick’s well-deserved reward. The ECAC Championships kick off on Friday, February 27, at 10:00 a.m. Information about the meet, results, and a live feed can be found at the ECAC website.