The 3rd Chemical Brigade had a strong showing in nearly every event but managed to dominate all three relay events on its way to claim the first-place trophy in the 2020 Commander’s Cup Swim Meet.
“We had a bit of a strategy going in to win the relays — because they’re worth more points,” said Jason Duncan, 3rd Chem. Bde. coach. “It was a team effort all the way around.”
Seven teams competed in the annual meet, held Saturday at the Davidson Fitness Center natatorium. With teams earning points in 12 different events, the 3rd Chem. Bde. took first place overall with 141 points, followed by the combined Maneuver Support Center of Excellence/ Combat Training Company team in second place with 123 points. Last year’s defending champions, the 14th Military Police Brigade, finished third overall with 114 points. The 554th Engineer Battalion finished fourth with 59 points; the 169th Engineer Battalion placed fifth with 41 points; the 5th Engineer Battalion finished sixth with 42 points, and the 31st Engineer Battalion finished in seventh place with 27 points.
3rd Chem. Bde. teammates Austin Felarca, Nathan Blaine, Ben McCoy and Brice Baldauff gave their unit an early lead, taking first place in the 400-meter freestyle relay. The same foursome later extended their team’s lead, taking first in the 200-meter freestyle relay, then sealing the win with a first-place finish in the 200-meter individual medley relay. The team also had several victories in individual events, with Blaine taking first in both the 100- and 200-meter freestyle events. Eric Mennin also took first in the 50-meter freestyle for 3rd Chem. Bde.
Hot on the brigade’s heels was the MSCoE/CTC team, which took second in opening and closing relays. They also dominated the 100-meter backstroke, with Scott Werkmeister taking first overall in the first heat and Brad Hardwick taking second overall with a win in the second heat.
“They were very tough,” Duncan said of the MSCoE/CTC team. “At first, I was more concerned about (competing against) the engineer teams. But, after a few heats, seeing that they were right there, neck-and-neck with us, I knew they were the ones we had to watch out for.”
While the annual swim meet gives competitors of all skill levels a chance to showcase their abilities, for swimmers like Blaine, who grew up with competitive swimming in Ohio and later competed at the Division II level for Bellarmine University in Kentucky, the competition takes on a special significance.
“I’ve been looking forward to this all year,” he said. “It was a lot of fun, and there were a lot of good competitors out there. Some of them I recognized from practicing earlier in the week.”
Blaine said his favorite events were the relays.
“There’s a lot of team spirit and camaraderie that comes out of that, and it was fun to compete against the other teams in those kinds of high-adrenaline events,” he said.
Building camaraderie is one of the reasons unit commanders like competitive sports, according to 3rd Chem. Bde. Commander Col. Adam Hilburgh, who attended Saturday’s meet to cheer on his Soldiers.
“I think it’s great that the team came out, and I want to thank (Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation) and Garrison for doing this — they always do a great job running these competitions for us,” Hilburgh said. “It’s great to see students, drill sergeants, lieutenants — all different groups doing something that maybe they did in high school or college, now having an opportunity to do it for the Army.”
Duncan said another contributing factor to his team’s win was its depth. The team had swimmers available for every event, which helped contribute to its overall point total.
“We couldn’t have done it without everybody,” he said. “We had a large talent pool, and everybody wanted to be part of the team. In the end, everyone who was here was part of the team — from those swimming to those tracking our times from the stands. It was a team effort, all the way around.”