My hand on the wall first

At a championship meet, the highs and lows can follow fast in each other’s wake

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.”

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