Director of Swimming Matt Crispino '02 has led his alma mater to perhaps its best three-year run in the last 40 years, if not in school history, as he enters his eighth season at the helm of the Tribe men's and women's swimming teams.
Crispino is the sixth mentor of the combined Tribe program, and the first alum to lead either W&M team since Keith Havens ’76 coached the men’s team from 1981-84. After seven complete seasons, Crispino has far out-paced any other coach since the teams combined in 1989 with an 86-64 record and a .573 winning percentage. All-time, he is the second-winningest coach in school history for each the men (34 wins) and the women (52 wins), trailing only legends Dudley Jensen (170 wins in 33 seasons) and Christina Jackson (79 wins in 12 seasons).
The most recent pinnacle of success came in 2013-14, with the men's team finishing second at the CAA Championships and the women third for the second consecutive year. That only tells part of the story, however, as the Tribe's showing at the CAA Championship produced the closest men's finish ever, with just eight points separating W&M from the trophy. During the regular season, both teams finished undefeated at home for the first time since at least 1977, and the women's team turned in a 7-4 season with a 2-2 record in the CAA. The men began the year 5-0, its best start since 1979, and finished at 7-2 to mark just the seventh time since World War Two that the Tribe has finished with two or fewer losses. For his achievements in guiding W&M to one of its best seasons in school history, Crispino was voted by his peers at the CAA Men's Swimming Coach of the Year, becoming the first Tribe mentor to ever win a men's coaching honor.
At the CAA Championships, the men put on a dominating show at the top of the leaderboards, winning three relays and nine individual events including a sweep of all six races on Friday night. Senior Andrew Strait won six golds in the week, including a sweep of the 200 IM, 100 breast, and 200 breast for the second year in a row, and was named the Swimmer of the Meet for the second consecutive season. Strait would also repeat at the CAA Scholar-Athlete of the Year for men's swimming for an unprecedented third season, and became the Tribe's first-ever winner of the Overall Male Scholar-Athlete of the Year award, and the CAA Swimmer of the Year. He was one of just six athletes to ever win six titles in a single meet in conference history, and the first to do so since 2006.
Sophomores Billy Russell and Will Manion won five races each, joining Strait on the three title-winning relays and winning twice each individually. Along with Strait, they rank among just 18 athletes in CAA history to ever surpass five wins in a single year. Russell's two individual golds came in the 100 free and the 200 free, and he set school records in both of those events as well as the 50 free. Manion swept the backstroke events, breaking the school record in the 200 back along the way. Individual titles also went to sophomores Justin Barden, in the 100 fly, and to Charley Bowles in the 400 IM. The hit parade of outstanding swims at the conference meet doesn't even include freshman Josh Zimmt, who didn't make the squad cut but still swam NCAA qualifying times at the Cavalier Invitational in mid-February. Zimmt broke the freshman record in both the 100 breast and the 200 breast, and also broke the school record in the longer race.
On the women's side, Megan Howard had a breakout campaign, scoring 28 wins including the 50 free at the CAA Championships. She set lifetime-bests in the 50 free, the 100 free, and the 100 fly during the season, qualifying for the NCAA Championships in every event, and also took down a pair of long-standing dual-meet records in leading the Tribe to a 7-4 ledger. Freshman Jaimie Miller was a mild surprise to win the 100 free at the CAA Championships, beating Howard to the wall, and was named the CAA Rookie of the Year after being the only freshman to win a league title. Miller ranked second on the team in points to Howard throughout the whole year, often swimming the same events and giving W&M one of the best one-two punches in the conference.
Also having a strong year for the Tribe were a number of underclassmen. Freshman Sophie Rittenhouse broke freshman and school records in both the 100 back and the 200 back, qualifying for the NCAA Championships in both events. In the sophomore class, Jessie Ustjanauskas quietly established herself as one of the league's top butterfliers, finishing third in the 100 fly and fourth in the 200. Her classmate Jenny Lomicka had a breakout week at the CAA Championships, elevating herself to one of the team leaders in the breastroke and IM events over the space of three short days.
The 2012-13 season marked a new high for the Tribe program, with a second-place finish by the men and third for the women. The men finished just 41 points behind UNCW, the closest any team had come to ending the Seahawk's 12-year run of titles. Andrew Strait won all three of his individual events to earn Swimmer of the Meet honors, and he repeated at the CAA Scholar-Athlete of the Year as well.
Senior K.J. Shaw completed his career in grand fashion, winning his last-ever race going away in the 200 fly. He also broke the conference record in the event. Sophomore Kemp Pettyjohn won three titles, becoming W&M's first-ever champion in the 500 free and the 1650 free, and also helped the Tribe claim an unprecedented third-straight 800 free relay. Freshman Will Manion made history of his own with a conference record in the 100 back, and the Tribe's first title in that event as well. Manion would finish the year by being named the CAA Rookie of the Year. Senior Hunter Perrot also became W&M's winningest-relay swimmer with his third gold medal on the 800 free relay, before breaking the school record in the 100 free and the 200 free.
For the women, there were no individual medalists, but the team as a whole came together and scrapped in every event. Sophomore Megan Howard emerged over the course of the year as one of the league's brightest young stars, and helped lead the Tribe to gold medals in both the 200 and 400 free relays. Freshman Hannah Vester was a force to be reckoned with in the distance races, setting W&M's rookie mark in the 1650 free, and classmate Jessie Ustjanauskas was also a finalist in both of the butterfly races. Senior Caylyn Tate went out in style, breaking the school records in the 1000 free and the 1650 free while finishing third in her last-ever race.
In 2011-12, the College teams both posted a winning record for the first time since 2006-07, and turned in scintillating performances at the Colonial Athletic Association Championships. The men’s team finished third at the conference meet, its best showing since 2001, and had 17 school-record and eight NCAA-qualifying performances. The women’s team finished fourth overall, and included 10 school records and six NCAA-qualifications in its three-day effort.
The success was not limited to just the team as a whole, but several individuals also turned in impressive seasons. On the women’s side, senior Molly Emery had a team-best 20 victories, and qualified for the NCAA Championships with her school-record 4:48.86 in the 500 free at the NCAA Championships. Classmate Laura Matthews reset one of the Tribe’s oldest records with her 2:02.29 in the 200 IM, and fifth-year senior Kristin Fimian earned her first All-CAA award on the College’s third-place 200 free relay. Perhaps the most impressive season for the women, however, belonged to senior Hailey Hewitt. Despite missing much of the regular season due to a foot injury, she came on strong at the CAA Championships with school-record times in both the 100 back and 200 back, including an NCAA-qualifying 1:58.22 in the 200 that won her the CAA title. In the weeks after the conference meet, Hewitt achieved another significant goal, qualifying for the Olympic Trials in the 200m backstroke, and she improved her seed by more than 40 places at the national meet. In recognition of her efforts, Hewitt was voted as the Tribe Club’s Senior Women’s Athlete of the Year.
The individual success on the men’ side included a number of Olympic Trials awards, NCAA qualifications, and two historic awards. Andrew Strait had a hand in all three, scoring a team-best 15 victories before really getting going at the CAA Championships. At the conference meet, he set school records and NCAA-qualifying times in both IM events, including a second-place finish in the 400 IM, and finished second in the 200 breast as well with another NCAA-qualification and school record. Strait also qualified for the Olympic Trials, in three events no less, and his academic achievements made him the first Tribe swimmer to be named the CAA Scholar-Athlete of the Year.
More history was made by freshman Kemp Pettyjohn, who had another two runner-up performances at the conference meet and led off the gold-medal winning 800 free relay. He set freshman records at every distance from the 200 free up through the 1650 free, and school records in the 500, 1000, and 1650, qualifying for the NCAA Championships in the process. Following the season, Pettyjohn was named the CAA Rookie of the Year, the first-ever CAA award for a Tribe men’s swimmer and the first performance award for a W&M swimmer since Pete McIntosh was named the Southern Conference Swimmer of the Year in 1965. Junior Sidney Glass also had a number of lifetime-best swims at the CAA meet, and joined Strait at the Olympic Trials after swimming a qualifying time in the 100m backstroke.
The 2010-11 campaign was another for the record books, as Crispino and his staff coached athletes to the brink of rejoining the conference's elite. Over the course of the year, W&M athletes achieved well over 200 lifetime-best swims, and peaked at absolutely the perfect time during the CAA Championships. Over the course of those three days in February, the Tribe had 16 school record-breaking performances (eight for each team) and 116 personal-best performances. The freshman record-book was re-written five times, and the top-10 ledger had 79 new entries.
The 2011 CAA Championships also saw the first two gold medals for the men's team in more than five years, both coming in one absolutely astonishing Friday night. Stephen Fay won the 200 freestyle for the Tribe's first individual title since 2005, and broke his own school record in doing so with a time of 1:38.46. Just an hour later, Fay joined teammates Hunter Perrot, Luke Robbins, and Evan Rutherford in winning the 800 free relay with a school-record performance of 6:38.41, the first relay gold for W&M since 1999 and only the second ever. That relay performance also beat the NCAA provisional qualifying standard by over four seconds. The next day, Kyle McVeigh swam nearly 45 seconds under his seed time in the 1,650 free, breaking the school record and taking second in 15:30.04 to qualify for NCAA consideration. By swimming under the NCAA "B" Standard, McVeigh also earned a spot on CollegeSwimming.com's Honorable Mention Mid-Major All-America list.
On the women's side, senior Emily Burns also ended her year with a spot on the Mid-Major All-America squad, after her runner-up showing in the 50 free of 23.02 met the NCAA provisional standard. Her performance was also the best of Burns' career, one of two lifetime-best performances on the week, and she also helped break the school-record in the 200 medley relay. A consummate temmate, Burns swam on seven of the eight-fastest 200 free relays in school history, and also collected nine more relay top-10s. Julia Applebaum also made her final CAA appearance one for the ages, setting four lifetime-bests and three school records individually while also taking part in the school-record 200 medley relay as well.
In 2009-10, the William and Mary Tribe men’s and women’s swimming and diving team once again posted a pair of solid seasons. During the regular season, the Tribe’s highlight came at the Terrapin Cup, where the College placed third at the highly-competitive meet, trailing only host Maryland and fellow-ACC power Connecticut. At the meet, W&M set over 50 lifetime bests, two freshman records, one school record, three NCAA qualifying times, and 38 new top-10 times.
At the CAA Championship, the women’s team was once again led by Katie Radloff, who ended her spectacular career for the College by capturing CAA titles in the 100 and 200 free. For her career, Radloff won 21 CAA Championships and was a two-time CAA Swimmer of the Year. Just like she had the previous three seasons, Radloff participated at the NCAA Championships, placing 27th in the 100 free, 28th in the 50 free, and 54th in the 200 free. Also at the CAA Championships, the 200 medley relay team of Gabrielle Mizerak, Emily Bart, Elizabeth Hall, and Radloff set the William and Mary record, touching the wall in a time of 1:43.53.
For the men’s team, the story of the 2009-10 CAA Championships was the breaking of school records. As a team, the men’s team set W&M all-time records in the 100 back, the 200 free, the 200 fly, the 200 free relay, and the 800 free relay. Stephen Fay led the Tribe at the conference championships, setting the 200 free record while also being apart of the record-setting 200 free and 800 free relay teams. Four freshman records were also set at the CAA Championships, led by K.J. Shaw who set the rookie mark in both the 100 and 200 fly.
In the 2008-09 season, the women’s swimming and diving team had one of its finest years in the College’s history. The team posted a 10-2 dual meet record during the regular season, including a 7-1 ledger vs. CAA competition. At the championship meet, the Tribe won seven conference titles, including a trio of relays. In total, W&M broke school records on 14 occasions, CAA conference records on seven occasions, and W&M freshmen records six times. Leading the way was Katie Radloff, who not only won the 50, 100, and 200 free in CAA for the third straight year, but also collected seven medals in total, the most of any athlete at the event, and advanced to the NCAA Championships for the third straight year. In the relays, the Tribe won gold in the 200, 400, and 800 free relays, while earning a silver medal in the 400 medley relay. Rookie Hailey Hewitt also became the first woman in the school’s history to win the 200 back at the CAAs.
For the men’s swimming and diving team, the 2008-09 season was a great step forward for the program. Much like the women’s team, however, the men’s team saved its best swimming of the season for the CAA Championships. After finishing seventh in 2008, the College placed fourth in 2009, the biggest improvement of any team. The Tribe scored 466 points at the championship meet, the most the College had scored since the 2000-01 season, despite the fact that the team competed without divers. Overall at the meet, the Tribe broke W&M records 15 times and freshmen records six times. The College really excelled in the relays, breaking all five William and Mary records, including a pair that were more than 10 years old.
In 2007-08 season, the women’s team finished the year ranked sixth by ColleeSwimming.com in the mid-major poll due in large part to the team’s runner-up finish at the CAA Championships. Radloff was named Outstanding Swimmer of the Meet for the second consecutive year after sweeping the sprint events. She was also named CAA Swimmer of the Year, was named to the CollegeSwimming.com Mid-Major All-American team, and competed at both the NCAA Championships and the Olympic Trials. During Crispino’s first season on campus in 2007-08, the men’s swimming and diving team performed well and saw a number of school records fall.
Crispino returned to his alma mater in 2007 after five years in the assistant coaching ranks. His previous stop was at Colgate University for the 2006-07 season, where he served as the assistant coach for both men’s and women’s teams. Directly responsible for the sprint corps, Crispino saw his athletes race to 49 lifetime-best performances, including four school-records and one freshman record. Prior to Colgate, he spent three years on the deck at West Point as the assistant coach for both men and women, helping the Corps of Cadets to a 23-12 record and a pair of second-place showings at the Patriot League Championships. In addition to his direct responsibilities for the sprint group, Crispino also helped develop the dry-land and in-pool training regimens for the middle-distance and distance swimmers, leading the team to break 12 Academy and 13 plebe (freshman) records and producing four U.S. National qualifiers and two NCAA “B” cuts. His 27 sprinters alone achieved 109 lifetime-bests.
Crispino got his start in coaching as a graduate assistant at Florida State University, where he worked with several athletes who counted NCAA, U.S. National, and Olympic Trials bids among their accomplishments. He helped guide the Seminole men to a runner-up finish at the 2003 ACC Championships, while the women came in third. The teams combined to send seven athletes to the NCAA Championships during his tenure.
The captain and Most Valuable Swimmer of the 2001-02 Tribe men’s swimming team, Crispino helped set the school record in the 800 free relay as a freshman at the CAA Championships, with a time of 6:47.85. In his rookie season, the team placed a program-best second at the conference meet after going 15-1 (6-0 CAA) during the regular season. Crispino received his bachelor’s of arts in government from the College in 2002, and his master’s in physical education from Florida State in 2003. In July 2008, he married Liz Koch, former Tribe swimmer and CAA Champion in the 100 and 200 fly. The couple resides in Williamsburg with their two-and-a-half year-old daughter, Lydia Grace, who arrived just in time for the 2012 CAA Championships.