Hampton graduate Ramsey dazzles at OAC championships
Before the Ohio Athletic Conference Championships, John Carroll’s Matt Ramsey gathered the men’s swimming team together. After a long process that started in the offseason, it was time to get the results.
“I said ‘guys, let’s not think about any outcome. Just smile, have fun, trust ourselves and what we’ve done all season, and things will fall into place.’ And it worked out just like that.”
That mindset is built from personal experience, and one coach Mark Fino has preached all season.
“Just always work hard every single day,” Fino said. “It’s part of the system I’ve set up.”
Ramsey, a Hampton graduate and two-time WPIAL champion freestyle sprinter, followed a promising freshman year with a tough sophomore campaign.
He battled injury last year and didn’t achieve his goal of making the NCAA meet. Turns out, focusing too much on goals was part of the issue.
“I think sometimes if you set a goal, you can limit yourself in a sense,” he said. “I just went in and worked as hard as I could with really no end goal in mind.”
The outcome for Ramsey and John Carroll couldn’t have turned out better.
On Feb. 14-16 at the OAC championships, Ramsey had arguably the meet of his life. He set six OAC records in the seven events he swam, helping lead the Blue Streaks to a conference championship at Akron’s Ocasek Natatorium.
“He just committed to working,” said Fino, who took OAC Coach of the Year honors. “Just focusing and enjoying the work. We can’t focus on the results, just the process.”
Ramsey finished first in the 50 and 100 freestyle, earning a bid to the NCAA Division III Championships in Greensboro, N.C. for the latter event. He also finished second in the 200 freestyle.
“I was surprised, honestly,” Ramsey said. “I wanted to break 20 (seconds) in the freestyle in my leg of the relay, and (the record) in the 100 freestyle, which I did on prelims, which took a lot of the pressure off for me.”
Ramsey’s time in the 100 free (45.78) earned him another OAC record. Additionally, he became the third OAC swimmer since 1990 to win the men’s 50 free in three consecutive years, breaking the league record in the process.
Ramsey’s relay teams proved even more dominant than his individual events. All four took first place, and each set an OAC record: in the 200 and 400 freestyle, as well as 200 and 400 medley. All relay teams will make the trip to Greensboro, too.
It’s a bit of redemption for Ramsey, who not only missed the national championships last year but suffered heartbreak his freshman year.
“It’s crazy because my freshman year, I missed by a hundredth of a second,” he said. “This year, we made it by a hundredth of a second, so we were nervous up to the point where they released their results.”
According to Ramsey, Fino had been working them tough in practice lately — and the results showed.
“I think he does have more endurance than last year,” Fino said. “He finished better in the 100 and 200. He definitely has more strength. I think he’s more focused on what he’s doing each day. It all goes back to that.”
The NCAA Division III Championships will be March 20-23. Though Ramsey hopes the Blue Streaks come away with some accolades, that’s not the approach they’ll be taking.
“Smile and have fun,” he’s said. “Obviously, we want to make All-American, score some points, but we’re not going to worry about that. Just trust in what we’ve done to prepare and just give it all we have.”