A well of grit and gratitude
Theirs were not strokes of luck, but of allegiance and love within a close-knit family.
The Buckeyes thrived despite the extraordinary circumstances and repeated cancellation of events. In a typical year, a team has about 20 days of regular-season competition. This past season, the women had one-fifth of that and the men even less. Still, the swimmers remained focused and committed as they prepared for conference and national meets.
“A lot of it is owed to the culture we have built around the concept of sisterhood and brotherhood, of family, that is Ohio State swimming,” senior swimmer Kristen Romano says of the team’s resolve. “We could not go outside the Ohio State swimming bubble. That meant no seeing partners outside the bubble. It meant not seeing family and friends. Instead of that being a downer and like, ‘Oh, this stinks,’ it was the chance to find even more value in Ohio State swimming than ever before.”
The sacrifices to compete were daunting. Team members took part in COVID-19 testing three times a week, and several tested positive throughout the season. None of the athletes could use their locker rooms, showers or training rooms. No meals were served at McCorkle Aquatic Pavillion. The Buckeyes arrived at the natatorium wearing their swim suits and could not remove their masks until they entered the pool.
Dorenkott was amazed at the empathy he witnessed. He recalled one freshman tearfully relaying to coaches news of a presumptive positive test. The student was most upset that he had ridden to his test with a senior swimmer, meaning both would have to sit out an upcoming meet. “Not only am I done,” the freshman told Dorenkott, “but I took out a senior, too.”
“In years past, houses [of swimmers] would get together every weekend to order pizza and watch movies,” says senior Paul DeLakis. “But now we couldn’t do that. We would have to do it over a video call. It’s a completely different thing, but teammates kept checking in on each other to see how they were doing through this. I’m going to have memories of these freshmen for the rest of my life.”
As Coach Dorenkott rode back to Columbus from the NCAA championships this past March, he was filled with relief and overwhelming pride at what the university’s swimming and diving community had accomplished.
“To be clear, we know we are not at the top of the mountain, but we are taking some pretty significant steps on the journey,” he says. “I couldn’t be happier for the kids, our staff and the alumni. It was a very rewarding year.”
As if all went swimmingly
Under most challenging circumstances, the women’s and men’s swimming and diving teams broke barriers this year.
- Ohio State was one of just three schools to accomplish top-seven finishes in both the women’s and men’s NCAA Division I swimming and diving championships. Texas and Cal were the others.
- The women’s seventh-place finish at the NCAA championships was its best in program history. The previous best was 10th in 1983.
- All five women’s relays placed in the top eight nationally, and five individuals accomplished top-10 finishes.
- Ten women earned a total of 28 All-America honors. Both totals established new school records.
- The seventh-place finish by the men’s team represented the best at the NCAAs since 1965, when it placed fifth.
- Not since 1962 and 1963 has the men’s program had better back-to-back showings at the NCAAs. The Buckeyes were ninth in 2019 and seventh in 2021. The championships weren’t held in 2020.
- Thirteen men earned a total of 28 All-America honors.