Flames swimmers pull away from ACC, SEC teams at Raleighwood Invitational
Team captain Matthew Davidson and fellow senior Robert Boehme each won four individual events and swam a leg of a winning relay a to pace Liberty University’s men’s swimming team to a dominating performance at this past weekend’s Raleighwood Invitational, hosted by North Carolina State at the Willis R. Casey Aquatics Center in Raleigh, N.C.
The Flames won the men’s team competition with 833 points, well ahead of second-place Georgia (494) and host NC State (third, 370) as well as Duke (fourth, 302), Appalachian State (fifth, 293), UNC Chapel Hill (sixth, 213), the Knights Swim Club (seventh, 172), Clemson (eighth, 169), UNC Charlotte (ninth, 139), Coastal Carolina (10th, 125), Elon (11th, 119), and UNC Greensboro (12th, 6).
Davidson swam to first-place showings in the 50- (24.15 seconds) and 100-yard backstroke (54.21) and 50 (21.66) and 100 freestyle (46.66) and placed third in the 100 butterfly (54.76). He also swam the first leg of the second-place 400 free relay (3:21.01) and 200 medley relay (1:40.96) and anchored the winning 200 free relay (1:30.80) started by Boehme, who won the 200 Individual Medley (IM, 2:03.39), 200 butterfly (2:03.83), 500 free (4:57.51) and 1000 free (10:20.23) and came in third in the 200 free (1:50.13).
“We were pleased with the times, which were great for being mid-season,” Flames Head Coach Heath Grishaw said. “Our team is very young this year, and our focus as a coaching staff was to see them race and to race to their potential and we saw a couple of our freshmen really show up at the meet and did just a really good job overall of racing.”
He said Cairns Edmondson, Tristan Roach, and Carson Chesnut took great strides forward, as did returning sophomore Johnathan Tonnell and junior Zach Mallory. Junior Jay Blasko (2:17.10) and freshman Christopher Ingle (2:22.65) finished first and second in the 200 back and Tonnell placed third in the 100 back (57.10). Junior captain Carter Helsby (2:20.19) and Roach (2:23.83) finished third and fourth, respectively, in the 200 breast stroke before Roach (1:03.99) edged Helsby (1:04.17) in the 100 breast. Freshman Joey Boehme finished swimmer-up to his brother in the 1000 free (11:08.82).
Complete results are available online.
“Team-wise, Georgia gave us great competition for this weekend and NC State did a great job as well of hosting the meet and it has a large team, so it was fun to compete against them and Clemson as well,” Grishaw said. “We will see (Georgia) again at (Collegiate Club Swimming) Nationals and they’ll definitely be a Top-10 team. We’re not ready yet, but by nationals, set for April 8-10 at Georgia Tech, we’ll be knocking on their door.”
He said competing in its first meet away from the Liberty Natatorium since early 2020 was a long-awaited experience, especially for an entire weekend.
“We were pleased with the overall ability to travel again,” Grishaw said. “This time last year, we were kind of looking at the guys and saying, ‘We might not have a season.’ So it was a big sigh of relief that we could experience that kind of environment again.”
The Flames have competed in the Raleighwood Invitational in each of their five seasons as a program, winning once previously.
“It is always a big team-bonding weekend, more than anything,” said Grishaw, who brought 19 swimmers on the travel squad. “The first time the team travels together, staying in hotel together, and all riding on the bus, the guys have to mesh … and if they do, we will see them continue to improve throughout the season.”
Liberty will next travel to a meet hosted by the University of Delaware on Oct. 24.
By Ted Allen/Staff Writer