For the Richmond women’s swim and dive team, traversing the distance between elation and uncertainty took precisely .04 seconds.
“I saw the official’s face, and I knew,” said freshman swimmer Virginia Marsh.
On the opening night of competition at the A-10 championship in Geneva, Ohio, on the final leg of the 800-yard freestyle relay, sophomore Morgan Soulia left the starting block .04 seconds too early, disqualifying the relay.
In .04 seconds, 30 points evaporated, and the defending-champion Richmond women found themselves in a meet very different from what they had hoped for. Like 2010. Like the only time Richmond had lost the championship in 15 years.
“We all knew that a DQ on the 800 relay was why they lost in 2010,” said Laura Rokop, ’18, a diver.
“I was so devastated,” said Soulia, who feared she might have lost the meet for the team. “If it’s a close call,” she thought, “then those points are on me.”
How do you come back from that kind of blow, on the first night of a four-day championship meet? What head coach Matt Barany knew, but wouldn’t tell the women: In the history of the championship, rarely — and in more recent, increasingly competitive, years, never — had a team come back from a relay DQ to win.
“History,” he said, “was stacked against us.”