WINTHROP, Mass. – Simmons College's Mindy Williams (Hampstead, N.H.) was named the Great Northeast Athletic Conference Women's Swimming & Diving Coach of the Year in addition to sophomore Aine Scholand (Albuquerque, N.M.) being chosen the GNAC Women's Swimming & Diving Athlete of the Year and first year Maria Soraghan (East Hampstead, N.H.) being tabbed the GNAC Women's Swimming & Diving Rookie of the Year, it was announced by the conference.
The Sharks have swept all three major awards in two of the last three years. In addition to the major award winners, Simmons boasts 10 GNAC All-Conference honorees due to first-place finishes at the GNAC Championship in December. Those competitors in addition to Scholand and Soraghan are seniors Michaela Morris (Duxbury, Mass.) and Natalie Giraldi (Bedford, N.H.), juniors Laura Simpson (Perkiomenville, Pa.) and Jason Erichsen (Banks, Ore.) and first years Anna Leedham (Lowell, Mass.), Sara Manjikian (Belmont, Mass.), Haley Summers (Hudson, N.H.) and Olivia Walz (Natick, Mass.).
Williams earns the top coaching honor nod for the sixth straight year and the seventh time overall following arguably the greatest season in school history. The former Colby College standout was also tapped as the New England Intercollegiate Swimming & Diving Coach of the Year for the third time in five years. Under her guidance, Simmons placed 26th in its first-ever appearance at the NCAA Division III National Championship on March 21-24 in Indianapolis, Ind., captured its first-ever NEISDA crown in February and won the GNAC title for the 14 straight year in December with Williams as its mentor for 10 of those championships. Williams oversaw the school's first-ever First Team All-American and saw 10 records fall this past season.
Her team won 13 of 22 events at the GNAC Championship, while breaking six meet records. Williams saw the Sharks continue their success, winning six individual events and three relays at the NEISDA Championship, while 14 of its 19 student-athletes earned All-NEISDA status by virtue of a top-eight individual finish or top-four relay placing. Simmons student-athletes combined to achieve All-NEISDA status 56 times and earned 39 medals with a first, second or third place effort during the meet in addition to breaking eight school records during the meet.
Williams directed Simmons to its fifth consecutive season with double-digit victories after posting an 11-2 dual meet record. The Sharks ran their consecutive victory streak to 15 after winning the first three dual-meets of the season to add to the team's perfect 12-0 mark from the previous year.
Williams has enjoyed tremendous success in her decade at the Fenway school, compiling an 83-33 (71.6%) dual meet record, including 53-8 (86.9%) over the past five seasons. The Sharks have shown a steady progression at the NEISDA Championship, ascending from 11th-place, in Williams' first year at the helm, to three straight years of third, the runner-up trophy last year to this year's first place finish. In addition, Simmons has broken 26 of the 27 individual and relay records that stand in the school's record books during her stay in Boston.
Scholand continues a string of four straight years that a Shark has been named the GNAC Swimming & Diving Athlete of the Year. The sophomore made her debut at the NCAA Championships a memorable one, finishing second in the 1650-yard freestyle with a school-record time of 16:51.01 to become the program's first First Team All-American. Scholand had garnered All-America Honorable Mention status just days before when she placed 11th in the 500-yard freestyle with a school-record effort of 4:56.76. A transfer from Division I Evansville University, she was named the Bruce Hutchinson Swimmer of the Meet at the NEISDA Championship after breaking three school and meet records to capture a trio of gold medals in her individual events, while helping Simmons win the 800 and 400-yard freestyle relay events in addition to a second-place showing in the 200-yard freestyle.
The sophomore shattered the 22-year old NEISDA record for the 1650-yard freestyle with a time of 16:55.51 by more than 19 seconds and also broke the University of Rhode Island's Tootell Aquatics Center pool record by more than six seconds. Scholand is also just the second competitor in school history to win three individual gold medals during the NEISDA meet and the only competitor in school history to break three meet records. The Sandia High School product posted a time of 10:09.47 to top the field in the 1000-yard freestyle by more than 47 seconds, while erasing the former NEISDA standard of 10:29.19. The time also shattered the former school mark of 10:36.33. She won the 500-yard freestyle by more than 11 seconds and broke the NEISDA mark by just over two seconds with a time of 4:56.98. Scholand was an integral part of three relay wins for the Sharks, helping them to victory in the 800-freestyle relay (7:48.37), the 400-freestyle relay (3:34.38) and the 200-yard freestyle relay (1:38.75).
The Neuroscience and Behavior major opened eyes immediately at the GNAC Championship by obliterating the conference record in the 1650 by nearly 50 seconds and the pool record by 14-plus seconds. Scholand also set GNAC and pool records in the 500-yard and 200-yard freestyle, respectively, as part of a 74-point tally to tie for the most points scored in the championship meet for the Sharks. Scholand was named GNAC Athlete of the Week three times and won 18 of 21 races this year from the 500 to 1650-yard freestyle range with her only loss in five 1650 events and six 1000-yard entries coming at the NCAA Championships. The West Coast native posted 27 top-three finishes in 29 events, including 24 victories and tallied 278 points to lead Simmons. Scholand put together two separate event winning streaks of six or more, including a seven-race victory stretch from December 2, 2017 to January 13, 2018.
Soraghan is the third Simmons student-athlete to be named Rookie of the Year in the last five years and was tabbed the GNAC Rookie of the Week a league-high six times during the season. The first year earned All-NEISDA status in five different events, including all three individual events she entered. The rookie won the gold medal in the 200-yard freestyle with a time of 1:56.34, while earning a silver medal in the 100-yard freestyle with a mark of 53.89. Soraghan added a bronze-medal effort in the 500-yard freestyle with a personal-record time of 5:09.16. The Pinkerton Academy product also helped the Sharks to a win in the 800-yard freestyle as well as the 400-yard freestyle. She was not just the most successful rookie for Simmons, but one of its best overall swimmers as well, scoring 233 points for the third-highest total on the team. The New Hampshire native turned in 24 top-three finishes, including 13 wins and suffered her only loss in the 50-yard freestyle at the Eastern College Athletic Conference Open Championship against Division I, II and III swimmers. She showed good range in the freestyle events, winning at distances of 100, 200, 500 and 1000 yards this season. Soraghan was a main contributor to the Sharks' GNAC Championship victory, racking up 74 points to tie for the most in the two-day meet, while posting personal-best times of 24.70 and 53.60 to capture the GNAC Championship in the 50-yard and 100-yard freestyle events, respectively. The International Relations major also added second-place showings in the 200-yard freestyle and 50-yard backstroke with personal-record times of 1:55.85 and 28.61, respectively.
Giraldi earned All-Conference status for the fourth straight year after touching the wall first in the 50-yard breaststroke with a conference, pool and school-record mark of 30.12 at the GNAC Championship. The senior also won the 100-yard breaststroke and added a second-place showing in the 100-yard individual medley to go with a third-place finish in the 50-yard freestyle for Simmons. In addition, she helped the team to wins in the 200 and 400-yard medley relays. The Bedford High School graduate went on to capture the NEISDA crown in the 50-yard breaststroke as one of her four wins in the event against just one loss during the season, while placing second in both the 100-yard breaststroke and the 100-yard IM at NEISDA. An Exercise Science major, Giraldi turned in 11 first-place efforts and seven second-place outings for the Sharks. Giraldi finished her career with three individual school standards (50 breast, 100 breast and 100 IM), while being a part of three relay marks. She has posted 92 top-three finishes for her career, including 52 victories.
Morris also earned All-Conference honors for the fourth season in a row following wins in the 50 and 100-yard butterfly events in addition to helping the Sharks take the 200-yard medley relay. Her time of 26.78 was good for the conference, pool and school record in the 50-yard butterfly. The senior placed second in the 50-yard butterfly at the NEISDA championship and also finished fifth in both the 100 and 200-yard butterfly races. The Duxbury High School product registered 19 top-five efforts, including seven wins for the season. For her tenure at Simmons, the Psychology major has won 11 butterfly titles at the GNAC Championships as part of 86 career top-three finishes and 43 wins.
Leedham touched first in the 200-yard butterfly and also swam on the team's winning 400-yard medley relay to earn All-Conference accolades. In addition, the Lowell High School graduate placed second in both the 200-yard individual medley and 100-yard butterfly to go with a fifth-place effort in the 100-yard backstroke for Simmons. The Nursing major shined at the NEISDA Championship as well, finishing third in the 200-yard butterfly and breaking the school record with a time of 2:13.39 in the event's preliminaries. Leedham placed first in the 100-yard butterfly consolation final and ninth overall, while placing sixth in the 200-yard IM. She recorded 24 top-five finishes, including five wins during the season.
Manjikian received All-Conference honors after winning on the three-meter diving board with a score of 211.95. The first year placed second on the one-meter board with a mark of 366.95 points in 11 dives. The former gymnast scored points at the NEISDA Championship as well, placing third on the three-meter board and fourth in the one-meter event. The Belmont High School product placed first six times during the year as part of 19 top-four outings.
Simpson earned a spot on the All-Conference team after helping the Sharks to a win in the 400-yard freestyle relay at the GNAC Championship. The junior also placed second in the 500-yard and 1650-yard freestyle events to go with a third-place finish in the 200-yard backstroke and a fourth-place showing in the 200-yard freestyle. A graduate of Boyertown High School, Simpson came up big in the 200-yard freestyle at the NEISDA Championship, finishing second with a personal-record time of 1:56.48 and added a third-place effort in the 1650-yard freestyle to go with a fourth-place showing in the 500-yard freestyle. The Exercise Science major received GNAC Athlete of the Week honors in February and finished 15th overall at the ECAC Championship in the 1650 as well. She racked up 28 top-five finishes for the season, including seven wins. Simpson has 72 top-three showings for her career, including 43 races as the top finisher.
Erichsen swam the breaststroke as part of the winning 200-yard medley relay squad at the GNAC Championship to earn a nod to the All-Conference team. The West Coast native finished the meet strong with a second-place effort in the 200-yard breaststroke and third-place swims in the 200-yard IM and the 100-yard breaststroke in addition to an eighth-place finish in the 100-yard backstroke. The junior excelled at the 200-yard distance, breaking school records in both the 200-yard breaststroke and 200-yard IM at the NEISDA Championship with a time of 2:26.37 in the breaststroke to place second and a mark of 2:12.57 in the IM to take fourth place. Erichsen also won the consolation final to finish ninth overall in the 100-yard breaststroke. The Oregon Connections Academy graduate established personal-record times in 10 different events during the season, including a mark of 1:09.06 in the 100-yard breaststroke at the ECAC Championship and was named the GNAC Athlete of the Week twice. Erichsen posted 24 top-four finishes, including 16 first place efforts and scored the fourth-most points on the team. The junior has 66 top-five finishes in three seasons at Simmons and has won 21 events.
Summers achieved All-Conference status as a part of the Sharks' winning 200-yard medley relay team as the freestyle anchor leg at GNAC's. The first year also placed third in the 100-yard freestyle and fourth in the 50-yard freestyle, the 50-yard butterfly and the 100-yard IM for Simmons. The Alvirne High School product finished 15th in the 50-yard freestyle at the NEISDA Championship as well. Summers was named the GNAC Rookie of the Week in January and finished the season with 13 top-five efforts and won a pair of events.
Walz earned a spot on the All-Conference squad as a cog in the winning 400-yard freestyle entry at the GNAC Championship for the Sharks. In addition, the first year placed third in the 100-yard freestyle and was sixth in the 100-yard breaststroke. The Natick High School graduate placed second in the consolation final and 10th overall in the 50-yard freestyle at the NEISDA Championship and also scored points placing 13th in the 200-yard breaststroke and 15th in the 50-yard breaststroke. Walz posted 12 top-five efforts during the season.