Jerry Cummiskey took over as head coach of the Binghamton swimming and diving teams a little under two years ago, and in those two years, he already has an America East championship under his belt.
This season, Cummiskey led both the men and women to an undefeated regular season and propelled the men’s team to a conference title — the first since 2003. Due to Cummiskey’s success in the 2020-21 season, he has been named Pipe Dream’s Coach of the Year.
“It’s hard to say in a weird, uncertain year what it was about this year that clicked, but they got better, they swam well, and they just kind of had that desire the whole time to really go for it and make it worth it,” Cummiskey said. “We really pushed them to work hard and have some fun doing it.”
Cummiskey took over in 2019 when former head coach Brad Smith accepted a head coach position at Youngstown State. When Smith departed from BU, so did his assistant. As a result, Cummiskey brought in assistant coach Mike Kline. Junior Ryan Board, who swam under both leadership roles and has three individual AE championship titles under Cummiskey and Kline, said their coaching style clicks with him.
“[Smith] and [former assistant head coach] Matt Martinez were really good coaches, but [Cummsikey] and [Kline], I love them so much,” Board said. “Their training works really well for me. They know a lot about the sport … Having two completely new coaches is a little bit of a weird transition, but we got used to them really quick and they really helped develop a positive and great team atmosphere.”
At the AE championship, Cummiskey, Kline and diving coach Heather Colby were awarded the AE Coaching Staff of the Year award. The trio produced 11 all-conference selections, including five freshmen.
“Winning the award is really just a testament to our team, our swimmers and our divers having a good year and dealing with a lot of ups and downs and being resilient and having a heck of a weekend,” Cummiskey said. “It’s nice but winning is nicer and some of the moments in the locker room with the guys and seeing their faces and reactions when we finally knew we were gonna win, that was really the best part of the weekend.”
The swimming and diving season typically starts at the end of August and goes through mid-February, allowing the swimmers to train for six months before the championship meet, but this season, the teams didn’t get any legitimate training in the fall. According to Cummiskey, swimmers were in and out of the pool the entire season due to quarantine protocols. Going into the championship meet, Cummiskey redistributed events, balancing out his swimmers to avoid overloading any one event.
“We had some guys that swam different events that they might not have come in thinking they were gonna swim,” Cummiskey said. “Some of our freshmen did some different events and did them really well, like Jake Vecchio was third in the 100 backstroke and didn’t swim any backstroke for us all year. The guys were just willing to do what they had to do for the team to put us in the best spot.”
While Cummiskey said he wasn’t sure why the teams performed so well with less training this season, freshman Liam Murphy, who won two individual events at this year’s AE championship, credits his success to how efficiently the coaches were able to train in such a short season. In just six weeks, Murphy said he was able to improve his stroke, a feat that would normally take at least three months.
“[Cummiskey] and [Kline] are absolutely great coaches,” Murphy said. “They turned this program around in two years. They work great together. They’re funny, and they’re great coaches. They get you going in practice. They joke around with you, but when they want to be, they’re serious, and they’re great at giving you tips along the way.”
With the AE championship win, the Binghamton men’s team defeated four-time defending champions UMBC — the program with the highest men’s swimming budget in the conference, known for recruiting high-quality swimmers. Cummiskey is proud of his team and hopes to have the same success in years to come.