B y J o e G u i s t i n a
Standing on the pool deck inside
Lamade Gymnasium for the past 12
years, Jerry Hammaker has seen his
fair share of good times. His men’s and
women’s teams have never suffered
through a losing season.
The women’s team has enjoyed both
a perfect season (11-0, 2001-02) and a
Middle Atlantic Conference title (2010).
The men’s team has reached several
individual milestones, including two
Capital One Academic All-Americans
and one All-American in the pool.
Heading into the 2012-13 season,
though, the waters for the swim teams
became a little rough. On April 3,
longtime assistant swim coach Jeff Rauff
’72 was hit by a speeding truck while
bicycling on Lycoming Creek Road. The
accident left him in critical condition,
with a broken pelvis, tailbone and
sacrum, 12 fractured ribs, two punctured
lungs and bleeding in his brain.
In a sign of things to come, Rauff
made quick work of his recovery. Less
than five months after the accident, he
was standing next to Hammaker on the
pool deck at practice, cheering on the
Warrior swimmers.
“Jeff’s accident, to go from that, to
where he is now, literally, is a miracle,”
Hammaker said. “None of his doctors,
none of his family, expected him to
recover that quickly and that fully. To be
able to have him here this year was so
great because he’s such a motivator for
the swimmers.”
While Rauff was working on his
recovery, the Warriors also were working
and staying fit during the summer. When
practice convened in the fall, the men’s
team quickly took shape with one of
the deepest freshman classes in school
history.
“Over the summer, we were hearing
from guys about how they were getting
in shape,” Hammaker said. “They were
in such great shape when they got back;
it was one of those things where we had a
great feeling even before we started.”
Then one day in the fall, a strapping,
210-pound football player walked into
Hammaker’s office and inquired about
joining the team. At first, Hammaker
thought the defensive end was kidding,
but he did a little research and found out
that Nate Oropollo was one of the best
prep swimmers in Philadelphia before
heading to Lycoming, where he became
all-region in football.
“That gave us a shot in the arm,”
Hammaker said of Oropollo’s addition,
“and it was a total surprise.”
From the first day he dove in the pool,
Oropollo buoyed an already solid outlook
for the team. During his first meet, he
helped the Warriors win the final event
of the night (4x50-yard relay) and upset
Misericordia, 105-100.
By the final weekend of the regular
season, with a winning streak at six dual
meets, the Warriors were in position
to record the longest winning streak in
almost five decades if the team could post
wins over FDU-Florham, Wilkes and
Arcadia. None of the three teams came
within 50 points of the surging Warriors.
The win against Arcadia improved
the Warriors to 8-1 overall and helped
Hammaker break the men’s record of 81
victories set by Coach Mort Rauff, Jeff’s
father, from 1960-73.
“It’s kind of neat to have that tie-in
with Jeff’s dad,” Hammaker said of Mort,
who was a 1941 graduate of Williamsport
Dickinson Seminary and Junior College.
“Jeff has been so special to our program
and to me personally. It was quite an
honor to surpass Mort on that wins list,
but it was really nice to see the reaction
of the swimmers, alumni and people from
town.”
Meanwhile, the women’s team
finished off the regular season with four
straight wins to post its 12th consecutive
winning season.
Finally, at the MAC championships,
the Warriors men’s team dove into the
pool the first night and started to rewrite
the school’s record book, with Kyle
Garase breaking the 200-yard individual
medley record and the team of Dan
Woods, T.J. Guminski, Garase and Zack
Brower setting the 400-yard medley relay
mark.
On the meet’s second day, three more
records fell, as the 200-yard medley
relay team of Woods, Oropollo, Garase
and C.J. Arhontakis started the day by
shattering a record before Trevor Endler
broke the 100-yard butterfly record.
Woods, a sophomore, surprised many
when he broke his own 100-yard butterfly
record en route to a second-place finish.
To cap the weekend, the Warriors
set three more records, with sophomore
Danielle Loiseau breaking a 31-year-old
mark in the 200-yard butterfly set by
All-American Denise Zimmerman ’85,
freshman Josh Thomas setting a new
standard in the male version of the event
and Endler setting the mark in the 200-
yard breaststroke.
The eight records matched the high-
water mark (2001) during Hammaker’s
tenure and helped the men finish in third
place, which tied for the best mark ever at
the championships.
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