Members of the East Aurora boys swimming team were hard at work Wednesday afternoon, engaging in their usual practice routine of 30 minutes of dry-land training before working out for another 2 hours in the pool.
But even in the business-as-usual environment, there was a sense of calm and happiness. There’s no need for pressure because the team had already achieved its main goal for the season. The Blue Devils extended their ECIC division championship winning streak to 50 years in a row.
They did it by completing a 10-0 season Tuesday within ECIC III. They did it before a standing-room only crowd filled with several swimming alumni who have had a hand in the streak, including former longtime Orchard Park coach Art Aungst, who was on the first Blue Devils team that started perhaps the most impressive run of success by a program in Western New York history.
“Fifty in a row is a very special number,” said fifth-year coach Chris Musshafen, who has yet to lose a division dual meet. “It was a great night.”
“There’s a lot of pressure,” senior Charlie Morris said. “People are expecting you to keep the streak (going). It’s a lot of weight, but there’s also a lot of support.”
The post-meet celebration did not include cake to commemorate the occasion but did feature an endless amount of pizza shared by current and past swimmers. Morris said he received texts wishing him and the team luck from alumni who couldn’t be in attendance.
While East Aurora may be a small school, it enjoys success in most sports even though it does have a reputation for being a powerhouse in cross country. EA boys swimming has won a total of 56 division championships over the years.
In fact, the swim team used to draw members of cross country into its program until the school district joined nearby Holland to form a merged indoor track and field program last year.
What’s the secret for the Blue Devils’ consistent run of success in the pool?
It starts with the club program (East Aurora Swim Team) based out of East Aurora school district pools. Each member of the Blue Devils has swum at least one year with the EAST club. The amount of time athletes devote to training has paid dividends.
What also has helped the team succeed is that it doesn’t ignore the topic of the streak. That results in the team avoiding complacency or taking for granted that it’s going to win a division title each year when in fact division championships are always earned, never guaranteed.
“There’s no senior or captain who wants to be the first to lose the division," Musshafen said. "They are all guys who set the tone and they let the younger guys know (about the streak’s importance).
“It’s a discussion they have in the locker room,” Musshafen said. “As coaches it’s not our goal to win the division. It’s to get these kids to perform at the highest level and become better people (in life).
With 2019 already posted on the division championship banner hanging on the wall of the team’s natatorium in school, the focus for East Aurora now is on the ECIC Championship meet Jan. 26 at Sweet Home High School. The Blue Devils have won three straight league small schools team titles. The Section VI Class Championship meet follows. EA has won the Class B crown the past two seasons.
Streaks within "the streak." How about that?
“We’re looking to repeat,” Musshafen said. “Our goal is to swim as fast as possible because we can’t control what other teams do. It comes a lot from the culture of our team."