End of an Era
Feb. 26, 2004
The Patriot League Swimming and Diving Championships at Navy Feb. 26-28 mark the end of the season for most swimmers in the league, but also symbolize the end of an era for three members of the Lafayette women's team.
Seniors Kate Ehling, Maura Dailey and Erin Malone have been swimming competitively on the same team since age six. The Oreland, Pa. natives were four-year members of the Springfield Township High School swim team and also competed on the Springfield Aquatic Club team during high school. This weekend will most likely be the final time they hit the pool together in their collegiate careers. According to 11th-year head coach Jim Dailey, the hole they will leave in the Leopard program upon graduation will be difficult to fill.
"All three of them brought a sense of 'team,' since they had swam together for so long," Jim Dailey said. "They brought to the program leadership, motivation, a commitment to hard training, a dedication to excel academically and a lot of fun."
While the trio has been an invaluable part of the swimming program the past four years, it was far from a group decision to attend Lafayette in the first place.
"The three of us came on our recruiting trip to Lafayette together and we all loved it," Ehling said. "However, I don't think at that time we knew we would all end up here. We definitely weren't planning on going to college together."
"We did not want to base our decision on what the others had decided," Maura Dailey said. "We wanted to go to the school that we chose for our own reasons, not solely because one of us was going or not going to Lafayette. We thought that by keeping the decision-making process to ourselves, it was the best way to make the best decision for ourselves. It was just kind of coincidental that we all came here."
Once the three were on campus, they were careful not to let their friendship interfere with the opportunity to grow as individuals during their time on College Hill. While they still relied on one another and remained close friends, they abstained from living together until their junior year (even then, only Dailey and Malone were roommates) and carved their own niches in the campus community.
"I think that the three of us came to Lafayette not wanting it to be easier because we were together," Maura Dailey said. "We were friends and are friends, but we wanted to know that we could do it on our own. I think that we did a good job keeping our friendship alive while allowing each other to grow."
Reflecting on the past four years, two distinct memories stand out for the swimmers and their coach. The first is a narrow dual-meet victory over Lehigh in 2001, the other is the atmosphere surrounding Patriot League Championship weekend.
"My favorite memories are always at championships," Malone said. "Not only do people swim their best, but everyone is so excited and the energy level is so high."
"Without a doubt, my number one swimming memory is beating Lehigh by three points in the final event our sophomore year," Maura Dailey said. "I have never felt such intensity, enthusiasm and pride as a team member. After that meet, I knew that each of my teammates had swam their heart out and left it all in the pool."
Jim Dailey has his own favorite recollection of each of the three swimmers.
"I'll remember when Maura decided to swim the 500 free and 200 fly instead of the sprint events," he said. "I'll remember when Kate fractured her wrist and had to swim with a hard plastic splint. It was more like a lethal weapon to everyone around her. And I'll remember how Erin kept getting frustrated going 26.2 in the 50 free, then at the Bison Invitational this year going 25.51. The relief in her smile was great to see."
Coach Dailey has each of the three entered in three events at the league championships. Malone and Ehling will go head-to-head in the 50 free and 100 back, while Malone will also swim the 100 free and Ehling the 200 back. Maura Dailey will swim the 500 free, 100 fly and 200 fly.
"My expectations for this weekend are simple," Jim Dailey said. "Swim faster than you ever have before for yourself and to help lead the team in improving last year's Patriot League standing."
Fulfilling their coach's expectations would write a fitting ending for the collegiate careers of Ehling, Dailey and Malone.