At the 2021 America East (AE) Men’s Swimming and Diving Championship, junior Ryan Board and freshman Liam Murphy were two of the main contributors for Binghamton, as they scored a combined 107 individual points while breaking records in the process to help the team secure the win over four-time defending champions UMBC.

Murphy won both the 500 free and 1000 free against tough UMBC competition while Board took first in the 100 breast for the second consecutive year.

“I was just happy to get my hands on the wall first,” Board said. “After winning a race like that, emotions came out, all the hard work and the team battle we were in with UMBC, I was just happy to do as much for the team as I could.”

When his teammate, sophomore Justin Meyn swam a personal best time of 55.50 in the 100 breast heat before Board, ultimately placing third overall, it readied Board for the race.

“At that point, it was really close between us and UMBC,” Board said. “We were battling for every single point, so [Meyn’s] race really got me fired up. I think it got the whole team excited because, if I’m being honest, I don’t think anyone expected him to go that fast.”

Board was battling UMBC freshman Daniel Nicusan. He went out faster than Nicusan, but was almost caught by his opponent.

“I knew he was going to be really close to me,” Board said. “The way I race the 100 breaststroke, I always die in the last five to 10 yards, and I died pretty hard in the race, so I was worried that he actually caught me.”

But Board took the gold, breaking his own school and meet records with a time of 54.70 in the process. He also won the Elite 18 Award for having a 3.85 GPA in chemistry. However, Board doesn’t care about the accolades for himself — he said it is important for him to do well because he likes making his parents proud.

Board’s mom was a swimmer herself. When she was 10 years old, she ran across a road without looking and was struck by a car, breaking her leg.

“For rehab, the doctor recommended she start swimming and swam through the age of 10 to college,” Board said. “So she wanted my brother and I to start swimming a little bit and I started swimming on a team at the age of six and never really stopped.”

Like Board, Murphy also began swimming when he was 6 years old because his mom wanted him and his siblings to be strong swimmers in the ocean. Though his brother and sister stopped in middle school, Murphy kept going because he created friendships and started having success. But in eighth grade, he had elbow surgery and was out for the whole year. When he made the decision to start again in high school, he had great success, graduating as a four-time All-American, Sectional and State Champion and All-Greater Rochester Swimmer of the Year in 2020.

Originally committed to Miami of Ohio, Murphy came to Binghamton to visit his brother’s best friend, junior captain of the men’s swimming and diving team Benjamin Beldner, and fell in love with the place.

“I knew [Binghamton] was for me,” Murphy said. “I absolutely loved it. I hadn’t really been loving Miami so I was like, I think I’m gonna make the change and talk to [Binghamton head coach Jerry Cummiskey], and he was happy to have me.”

The switch from Miami of Ohio to Binghamton proved vital for the team, as Binghamton would have potentially lost the AE championship without him. Going into the meet, Murphy had no expectations for how he might do due to a shortened season and decreased training time.

“I didn’t even really expect to do well,” Murphy said. “Usually I’m training for an entire year … as a distance swimmer, I didn’t feel like I had my aerobic base, and I usually rely on that. I have a shorter stroke, and I definitely rely on the aerobic for my short stroke.”

The 500 free was one of the first events of the meet, and Murphy won it comfortably with a time of 4:30.57, over two seconds faster than second-place UMBC junior Samuel Jyawook.

The 1000 free was the first race of the last day of competition, and UMBC was clawing back at BU and quickly closing the gap. Cummiskey told Murphy that if he wanted to be in the race, he had to go out fast and maintain that speed.

“I was in my head pretty hard … in the 1000, halfway through the race, I didn’t have any energy left,” Murphy said. “It came down to the mindset of ‘I’m not gonna lose this race.’ We didn’t know if we were gonna win [the championship] or not. I knew if I could win that race, it would put us in a good spot.”

Murphy was up against Jyawook and UMBC senior Kai Wisner, who was last year’s AE men’s Most Outstanding Swimmer. Murphy went out fast and maintained relatively even splits, winning the race with a time of 9:20.40 and breaking the school record set by Nolan Slesnick in 2012.

“I was very excited, but I was also very, very tired,” Murphy said. “It was one of the most exhausting moments of my life — I was completely and totally drained, but it was a relief. In the end, [Wisner] was pulling on me fast, and I didn’t let him catch me, so I was so relieved and excited, but I didn’t have the energy to show excitement. I was just happy it was over.”

Next season, Board will look to defend his 100 breast championship title for the third year in a row while Murphy hopes that the increased training time will lead to more record-breaking wins in the 500 and 1000 free.