Once again the BMCC swim team – The Incredible 4 – prove to the swimming skeptics that four women who train hard, are dedicated and focused on a mission, can accomplish what some thought impossible. They competed in one of the toughest swimming regions in the nation to finish in 4th place out of thirteen teams in attendance. They had the 4th fastest time in four relays: 200 free, 200 medley, 400 free and 400 medley. The hard work continued at the NJCAA swimming and diving competition in San Antonio, Texas at Palo Alto College on March 1 through March 5. With nineteen of the top swimming teams in the nation present, some with 8, 10 and 12 women on a team, the Panthers stayed focused and determined not to be intimidated. Instead, it was business as usual.
Confident in their abilities and expecting to be tested, one by one, Felicia Rodrigues, Amber Flemming, Annelie Gregor and Vickie Dziubina came up to the starters block and performed their personal best each time. The excitement began on the first day with the first event of the 4-day competition. The Panthers stunned the crowd with a 5th place finish (4:52,49), 4 seconds faster than their regional time and gave notice that “BMCC was in the house.” The second day of competition started with the Panthers knowing they only finished 9th in this event last year, missing the top 8 by 2.5 seconds. But there was to be no repeat of last year’s results. With a 4 second reduction (2:01.30 to 1:57.32) and personal bests, they took 7th place and for the second consecutive day, they were called to the award stands.
Excited and emotional, The Incredible 4 carried this over to the 3rd day of the tournament with 1.75 seconds separating 5th through 8th place. The Panthers finished with a 2:11.73 to clinch the 8th spot, making it 3 for 3 in the top 8 in the nation. Unbelievable that one year earlier this team was barely noticed by their swimming peers and is now receiving numerous acknowledgements from athletes, coaches and spectators from different parts of the country.
Now comes the 4th and final day of competition. For the first time, fatigue, pain and uncertainty was present in their faces. The most competitive of all relays –400 free relay – was going to end the 4 days of competition. Concerned that Felicia Rodrigues and Vicki Dziubina had just finished their individual 200 fly and 200 breast, 25 minutes earlier, exhaustion was a legitimate concern. Then seconds before the start, I looked up and witnessed the most passionate and emotional hugs these 4 young ladies gave each other all season. I knew then, as their coach, that everything was going to be alright.
Vickie started the relay with fatigue running through her veins. Vickie has been solid as a rock since she returned to the team mid-season and replaced the veteran Jasmin Robinson, but the 200 breast, so close to the relay, took its toll and she finished the first 100 free 1:11.25, but the rest of the ladies came to her rescue. Annelie followed with a 1:02.28, to shorten the lead to 25 yards, then came Amber Flemming who some how was able to take 4 seconds off her personal best when we needed it the most, a 1:04.59 reduced the distance to a half a pool length but still in last place. Then Felicia Rodrigues dove into the water and gave a spectacular performance and brought the “house down” with cheers and applauds as she past some swimmers and finished one body length behind, to give the Panthers an 8th place finish and fourth consecutive relay medal.
The utopia continues with Felicia Rodrigues and Annelie Gregor finishing with personal best records. Felicia with a 1:09.49, 100 fly finished 9th to only come back the next day to clinch the 8th place spot on the podium in the 200 fly with a 2:41.24 on only her 3rd attempt this season swimming this event — outstanding. Annelie Gregor much more determined and focused this season, captured 9th in the 200 IM (2:26.26), 8th in the 100 breast stroke (1:14.50) and shocked the top 6 seeds with a time of 5:08.28, 400 IM, a 7 second improvement over her personal best at the regional championship and a 3rd place finish in the Nationals.