Hollie Bonewit-Cron wanted it to happen, but was still surprised when Miami men’s swimming and diving doused her with ice water to celebrate their Mid-American Conference Championship on Thursday, March 7.
“It was just kind of a nice pat on the back, honestly, just to know we were all in this together,” said Bonewit-Cron, the head coach of both the men’s and the women’s swimming and diving teams.
The MAC Championship was the team’s first since 2006, and the end-of-season celebration was a long time coming. The swimmers whoops of joy had been building in their chests since the start of the season – their smiles blooming since the team’s first practice in the fall.
On the first day of the MAC Championship meet, senior swimmer Nikola Andjelic reminded the team of what they had been working toward and yelled their adopted motto: “The bakery is open.”
The bakery had been open since September when Andjelic had motivated his teammates with the now-clichéd phrase, “Let’s get this bread.”
“Swimming is such a mental sport, so practices get really grueling and hard,” Andjelic said. “I was always the type of kid who loved having fun at practice. I made up those sayings as kind of a funny way to get my friends and teammates to laugh to get through practice.
“That just turned into, one day, me yelling, ‘Let’s get this bread,’ to the whole team, yelling it to Hollie, mentioning it in some of our meetings like, ‘The bakery was open today, guys.’ That just shot off.”
And when he yelled, “our year,” that phrase stuck, too.
While “the bakery is open” punctuated the team’s excitement, “our year” grounded the RedHawks and lived on their homemade trophy. After the team found an empty plaque, they wrote “2019 MAC MEN’S CHAMPIONSHIP, ‘OUR YEAR’” and mounted it in the locker room.
The healthy mix of work and play propelled the RedHawks to finish their season 7-2.
“You don’t just come to work, work, work,” Bonewit-Cron said. “You want to enjoy what you’re doing, so that’s where I found that [the men] really thrive. They practice that in practice. They worked hard every day, but then they found the joy. They would support each other. They cheer each other on. They banter with each other. They pick on each other in a fun way.”
And the dynamic fueled men’s swimming and diving’s success at the MAC Championships.
The RedHawks finished the first day of the meet ahead of the second-placed Missouri State but built their lead over the next couple of days, finishing first with 326 total points through Tuesday and 623.5 total points through Wednesday.
When they held a 24.5-point lead over Missouri State on Thursday, the RedHawks still needed to “open the bakery” on day four. The divers took it upon themselves to secure the victory.
Senior Harrison Moncino had a feeling he and senior Ryan Nash would out-dive their competitors. Moncino’s feeling started in his toes and stemmed from his socks.
A sport judged on precision and conformity, diving leaves little room for creativity, but Moncino managed to capture his personality through his socks.
“I would say it’s kind of routine that I like to be somewhat flamboyant and I like to have fun,” Moncino said. “And that’s my way of having fun when we all have to dress the same and look the same. If I can change a little bit of it and show a little bit of my personality, that’s what I like to do.”
So Moncino’s margarita-patterned socks fueled his first-place dives on Tuesday and Thursday, just as the RedHawks’ mottos fueled the team to dominant performances and a sure-victory heading into the last race of the meet – the 400 meter freestyle relay.
“Oh my god,” junior Iago Moussalem said. “I was the last guy in the relay, and when I did the last turn, I knew we were going to win the last relay, and I knew we were winning the meet […] During the last 25 [meters], everything came to my mind that happened during the year and when we started saying it was ‘our year.’”
After junior Diego Valentim, freshman Nic Wamsley, junior Nick Ward and Moussalem won the relay, the celebration six months in the works exploded from the ’Hawks.
A yelled (instead of sung) version of Miami’s fight song rang out moments before the MAC Championship trophy presentation.
With the team’s season-long dynamic and work ethic, the victory wasn’t shocking to the team or their coach, but Bonewit-Cron’s swimmers and divers had a surprise for her.
They brought out the makeshift plaque, the one made back in September, and gave it to her:
“2019 MAC MEN’S CHAMPIONSHIP, ‘OUR YEAR.’”
The MAC Championship trophy came out minutes later. Senior swimmers and divers hoisted the trophy above their heads, the team packed the podium and Bonewit-Cron stood to the far left watching her team celebrate as the first female coach in the MAC to coach a men’s team to a championship.
“It feels great,” Bonewit-Cron said. “It also feels rewarding, not only for what I’ve accomplished but who has helped me along the way. I think that’s what’s most important. I couldn’t be in this position if I didn’t have the mentors or coaching staff that I have now, that can help me along the way to have that type of role.”
The tradition of jumping fully clothed into the pool followed and, when had everyone climbed out, seniors Jake Precious and James Wray bathed Bonewit-Cron with ice water.
Twelve days later, their clothes have dried, mandatory practices have stopped for all except those competing in voluntary national and international meets and championship rings have been ordered.
For now, the bakery is closed until next season.