Last month, Cabrini swimmers competed in the Spartan Splash Invitational, a three-day swimming tournament between five colleges: Cabrini, York College of Pennsylvania, Albright College, Hood College and Bridgewater College. The number of swimmers from the opposing schools overwhelmed the Cavaliers’ numbers, but that didn’t stop Cabrini’s Michael Gray from standing out.
Gray smashed two personal best times and set the conference-best mark in the 100-yard breaststroke. He was also named AEC swimmer of the week for the week ending Nov. 19. Cabrini swim coach Cindy Ikeler said, “That meet was probably one of the best I’ve ever coached.”
Gray’s ambitious goals
Gray put on an impressive display when he set the fastest 100-yard breaststroke time for the season so far with 59.26 seconds, but said he was prouder of his personal bests, especially the 50-yard freestyle.
“I think I can beat our school record in the 50 free,” Gray said. He was 0.02 seconds away from that goal with a time of 21.50 seconds. Being that close to cementing his name in Cabrini’s 50-yard freestyle record, a time never to be broken again once the school closes, would feel “pretty cool,” he said.
Gray said along with potentially breaking the record, finishing first in both the 100- and 200-yard breaststroke during the same meet is another future goal.
No surprise here
Ikeler said she wasn’t surprised after learning Gray earned the AEC title. “Michael is an incredibly hard worker,” she said. During practice, not only does Gray perform on a physical level, but he homes in on his technique, the “little details.”
Prior to the tournament Ikeler said she worked with Gray on a lot of different drills, tweaking how much water he was moving per lap and switching up his tempo, so when it came time to compete, Gray brought his focus and work ethic. Ikeler said the official nod to his achievements was just clockwork and she’s happy the time finally came for his recognition.
“Making sure our team is getting recognized on a level like that feels really good, especially when I’m the one to do it,” Gray said. “I think it goes to show whatever Sydney’s doing is working.
What the tournament signifies
Ikeler said, “To have every swimmer get up for every race and have a season best, personal best, or a lifetime best, was pretty incredible, so it makes me proud, and I think it makes them proud too.”
She added, “Unfortunately we are a small team this year because of the circumstances with Cabrini, but were still able to make an impact on the entire conference… I think the way that Gray swam, but also the way that his teammates swam, was a huge morale and confidence booster, and let them know that this was all worth it, what we’ve been working on all fall, and now I think they’re more excited to see if they can swim faster in championships come February.”
Gray said the team feels it can improve, and wishes to leave Cabrini with a bang.
A small and determined team
“I’ve swam in practices before where it’s five guys in one lane, but now it’s five guys on the whole team,” Gray said. “A lot of guys didn’t come back into the season or told us they were going to quit, so it’s nice that the people around you want to be here.”
Ikeler said it’s tough to navigate a small team, there’s a lot of “negatives” to going from one of the top teams in the conference to not having enough bodies to be in that position.
But, she said, having a small squad led to more communication, and allows her to spend more time improving an individual’s training and allow swimmers like Gray to shine.
The team will continue their schedule until the AEC championship February 15-17, 2024.