Stevens Swimming Wins Coach of the Year, Swimmer of the Year and Rookie of the Year Honors from Empire 8
Stevens swimming coach Brad Thornton won Coach of the Year for both men’s and women’s Empire 8 swimming, while senior John Hu won Empire 8 Swimmer of the Year for the men and freshman Elizabeth Heinbach won Empire 8 Rookie of the Year for the women.
For the men, Hu and Thornton helped guide the program to its second Empire 8 title and the highest national finish in Stevens men’s swimming history as the Ducks placed sixth at the NCAA Swimming and Diving Championships in Shenandoah, Texas in late-March.
Hu swam in three individual events at the national meet, earning All-America distinction in two and honorable mention All-America honors in the third. He ended up 13th in the 200-yard individual medley with a 1:50.06, and broke his own school-record by almost two seconds in taking third in the 400-yard individual medley with a time of 3:53.16. Hu earned a spot in the championship final of the 200-yard butterfly, where he set a new school record with 1:47.79 to take fourth place. He two finishes in the top-eight were good for All-America honors, while his 13th in the 200-IM was honorable mention.
In late-February, Hu was named the Outstanding Male Swimmer of the Meet at the Upper New York State/Empire 8 Championships. He earned a win in the 200-yard individual medley with a time of 1:51.98, carded a 4:00.43 in the 400-IM and clocked a 1:50.95 in the 200-yard butterfly.
At the Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference (ECAC) Championships in December, Hu was named the Swimmer of the Meet for the fourth-consecutive time in his marvelous career. The veteran tallied two NCAA A-cuts, earned three individual wins and participated on two winning relays.
Hu was named the 2010 Empire 8 Rookie of the Year and the 2011 Swimmer of the Year and reached the national meet in all four of his campaigns as a member of the program. He is a six-time All-American and five-time honorable mention All-American individual and was a participant on two honorable mention All-America relay teams.
Thornton just finished first season as the head coach of the Ducks after serving as an assistant coach the last four years. He has helped Stevens to top-20 finishes each of the last four seasons, culminating with a conference title and sixth place in his opening year leading the program. Thornton helped push Stevens to 10 All-America swims and 19 All-America honors at the 2013 national meet to go along with four honorable mention All-America swims and 10 total H.M. nods. Stevens was the top-finishing school in the Empire 8 as well as the state of New Jersey on the national level with its program-best team total of 185 points. TCNJ was 14th with Empire 8 rival Ithaca placing 18th. Conference foe Hartwick was 37th as a total of 49 institutions earned points at the national meet this year.
Meanwhile, Heinbach and Thornton helped the Stevens women to a seventh-place finish at the National College Athletic Association (NCAA) Swimming and Diving Championships in late-March and also guided the program to its first-ever Empire 8 title in February.
Heinbach was one of just two freshmen in the entire conference to earn a trip to the national meet, competing in three individual events. She earned honorable mention All-America honors with a 14th place finish in the 400-yard individual medley, and did the same with a 15th in the 1,650-yard freestyle, clocking a conference-record time of 17:11.13. The Ohio native also was 24th in the 500-yard freestyle.
At the conference meet, the rookie won E8 titles in the 500 and 1,650 as well as a third place in the 400-IM.
Thornton helped Stevens to an Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference crown, the Empire 8 title and a seventh-place finish nationally. It marked the third-straight year Stevens placed in the top-10 and the fifth-straight year the Ducks cracked the top-20 at NCAA's.
A first-year head coach, Thornton spent the previous four seasons as an assistant with the program. In 2013, the Ducks turned in eight top-eight swims which netted a total of 17 All-America honors. Stevens also had five honorable mention All-America (places nine through 16) swims that tallied 10 honorable mention All-America accolades. Stevens finished one spot ahead of MIT and 10 spots up on in-state rival TCNJ in 17th. Empire 8 rival Nazareth was the closest conference school to Stevens taking 25th, while Hartwick was 39th and Ithaca was 41st. A total of 54 institutions earned points at the meet.