LANCASTER, Pa. – Franklin & Marshall's men's swimming team started its 2017-18 campaign strong, tallying top-15 times from two individual swimmers in two events and top-10 times from five relay teams across all NCAA Division III swimming through the opening semester.
During the first half of the 2017-18 season, Christopher Schiavone '21 ranked as high as second in Division III swim times in the 50-yard freestyle with a time of 20.61 and a 45.99 finish in the 100-yard freestyle which was good for seventh. Eric Dietrich-Peterson '20 tied for fifth in the 50-yard butterfly at 23.17 and notching 11th in the 100-butterfly with a 50.27 finish.
The Diplomats also boasted five relay teams that consistently ranked in the top-10 times. The 200-yard freestyle team (Schiavone, Dietrich-Peterson, Justin McLellan, Ryan Caffrey) currently sits 14th after a 1:24.18 finish this past weekend at the Gettysburg Invite. The 400-yard freestyle team sat as high as 10th (3:08.31), the 800-yard freestyle team also ranked 10th, finishing in 7:03.94. The 200-yard medley team was tied for 10th at 1:33.26 and the 400-yard medley team reigned in second with a 3:23.14 finish, while setting a new program record at the F&M Invite on Nov. 17.
The last time the men's program had a swimmer qualify for the NCAAs was in 2010 when Tom Grabiak '10 earned All-America recognition in the 100- and 200-yard breaststroke.
Going into the season, coach Ben Delia had some ambitious expectations for his men's team. The seventh-year head coach expected his underclassman to be instant impact swimmers with their goals set on national cuts, specifically in the relays. At the midpoint of the season, he certainly has not been disappointed.
"The underclassmen have played a huge role on this team," explained Delia. "We knew they were talented coming in and we knew they were going to be major players. We thought that they could be nationally competitive, and they have proven that they are."
Despite a historically smaller roster, Delia discussed how the size has only helped to strengthen the team and its chemistry.
"The biggest game changer for this group is the fact that every guy is committed," said Delia.
Schiavone agreed, "There's an unspoken acknowledgment that everyone has a role to play, everyone's effort counts and that's one of the biggest motivators."
Looking into the second half of the season, the team has their sights set on Centennial Conference (CC) Championships and NCAA cuts. After a strong rookie campaign that included four medals at the CC Championships last season, Dietrich-Peterson was driven to make NCAAs in his sophomore campaign.
"I think this team is going in a great direction," he explained. "Champs are going to be especially exciting after all the hard training we will have during our training trip and the spring in general. I think we have a really good shot of getting at least a relay to NCAAs this year and making history in our program."
Delia expects the Diplomats to continue the pace going into the holiday break and second half of the season.
"The main focus will be building up and working towards CC Championships. The men's team has never qualified a relay for NCAAs so the fact that we have a relay at the top of the rankings is pretty momentous," said Delia.
The Diplomats resume regular season competition on Jan. 14, traveling to Susquehanna for 4:00 p.m. matchup.
F&M hosts CC Championships Feb. 22-25 with NCAAs slated for March 21-24 in Indianapolis, Ind.