December 22, 2008
By David Driver
For the Stafford County Sun
Used with permission
STAFFORD — The Division III University of Mary Washington women’s swimming team won its first four meets of this season and one of the reasons is a strong freshman class, according to second-year head coach Matt Sellman.
“We have a good group of freshman girls,” said Sellman, who came to Mary Washington after coaching on the west coast. “They are really good, hard workers. They are a pretty serious group. We have had significant improvement. It is always great to have freshmen step up. It is a great class.”
The newcomers to the Mary Washington program include Mountain View graduate Liz Bradley and Sam Strawder, a North Stafford High grad. Both of them graduated from high school in 2008 and just completed their first semester of college.
“The freshman class has been piling on the points at the meets,” Bradley said. “It is really surprising. I didn’t realize how important freshmen were at the college level.”
Bradley has three older brothers who graduated from Mary Washington and one of them, Brian, competed in swimming.
Liz Bradley looked at Marymount and St. Vincent in Pennsylvania but decided to20follow the family footsteps to Fredericksburg.
“They had a really good swim team and they have a good art department and I want to study art,” she said. “It has been one of the most enjoyable things. It is everything I ever wanted out of college swimming.”
Strawder, a four-year swimmer at North Stafford, said she originally did not have Mary Washington on her list of colleges since it was too close to home. She also looked at George Mason University in Fairfax but felt trying to compete at the Division I level would take away from her other interests.
“I can focus on more things than swimming,” said Strawder, who added she does better in a less intense environment that the one that sometimes be found at the Division I level.
Strawder was impressed when she paid a visit to Mary Washington before her freshman year there.
“I went and visited with the coach and liked how the team interacted with each other,” she said. “It seemed like what I wanted. It was not as serious as Division I. It came down to Mason and Mary Washington.”
Strawder, who ran cross country as a freshman in high school, is a sprinter who focuses on the 50 and 100 freestyle. “She has improved a lot. She has been in contention for top relay spots,” Sellman said.
Bradley has competed in events from 50 to 500 meters and focuses on the freestyle.
“She is a gamer. She likes to race,” Sellman said. “She has had a lot of good improvement this year. Her consistency in racing has improved as well.”
Bradley and Strawder are expected to join the team on a training trip to Florida that begins Dec. 29 and will last for about 10 days in Boca Raton.
“The kids raise money to pay for the vast majority of the trip,” Sellman said. “It is the best part of the year for the kids.”
Said Strawder: “I think it will be a lot of fun.”
“I have never been on a plane before,” Bradley said.
The Eagles are 3-0 in the Capital Athletic Conference and return to action Jan. 10 at Catholic University in Washington. Mary Washington won the CAC title last season in men’s and women’s swimming.
And the future looks bright with the new recruiting class.
“The freshman class is bigger than any other,” said Strawder, who has not declared a major but is interested in the medical field. “We have a lot of depth. We get along really well. We don’t have any divisions on the team.”
Notes: Mary Washington will face Marymount on Jan. 16 in Arlington … North Stafford grad Kelly Reightler is a freshman on the swim team at Navy, which has a meet Jan. 10 at Cornell.