Elizabeth Bernardy, an individual who once roamed the hallways on campus returned this summer to take the reins of the Lyons’ Men’s and Women’s Swimming teams. The former All-NEWMAC Second Team swimmer as a breaststroker seized control of the program after beloved head coach Barrett Roberts stepped down following over 11 years of guiding the program to unprecedented success.
From 2016 to 2023, Roberts helped improve Women’s Swimming and Diving by 333 points in the NEWMAC championships, bringing them from fifth in the conference up to second. On the men’s side, the 50m and 100m freestyle record holder was at the helm to aid his swimmers and divers in breaking an astounding 23 school records. In his final year, his male athletes smashed five school records including the 400 and 800 freestyle relay.
Bernardy recalled her time under the tutelage of Roberts, stating, “I definitely consider him a great mentor in my life; I am really excited to have the opportunity to take over his team that he has done great things with.”
She continued, “I would not be here if not for my experience under him.”
Although his shoes are massive ones to fill, the fifth coach in the program’s history plans to use her wisdom from in and out of the pool to lead this group into a new era.
Since graduating from Wheaton in 2020, Bernardy has taken every step possible to earn a chance like this. The Western, Massachusetts native hit the ground running, securing a spot with a fellow NEWMAC school, Smith College as a graduate assistant coach. The former Lyon swimmer herself held that position for two years before being thrust into an interim Co-Head Coach position with the Pioneers back in February.
She reflected on her time in Northampton, Massachusetts, expressing the fact that the situation allowed her to gain essential skills for the season ahead.
“I got to do a lot of everything, whether that was on the game administration side of things or bringing an athlete to the highest level. Having that external experience to be able to know what other teams/coaches are doing can allow us to be as competitive as possible.”
Bernardy brings the knowledge of being inside another conference foe, just like Roberts did when he captured the head job back in early July of 2011.
On Monday, September 18, Bernardy’s career as the leader on the pool deck officially began as her athletes took to the water to begin pre-season. The Norton outfit has not released the full schedule as of the time of writing with a month of training lined up prior to jumping into the competition part of the sport.
The women’s team has not finished outside the top three in the conference since 2016 while the men experienced an over 180-point jump in the span of a year in the NEWMAC championships. That was the second-largest improvement between 2022 and 2023 out of the six other competing schools on the men’s side, behind only Babson College.
The new leader spoke on what she is doing to carry on this upward trajectory for both the women’s and men’s teams.
“We’re bringing in a really good group of first-years, and from there, it is all about continuing to recruit similar classes that not only help us to be competitive in the NEWMAC but are also great teammates who are going to support us in achieving our team goals.”
She is a coach who is not only focused on the progress of the club in terms of wins and losses. The former Smith college assistant aims to create a quality “student-athlete experience” in her first season.
Bernardy understands the team concept of the sport, expressing the fact that Wheaton Diving is just as important as the swimming side of things.
“You can’t have one without the other at this level which I think is really fun. I have a lot of appreciation for the divers as a swimmer,” Bernardy explains, “At Smith, I had the opportunity to work with a diver which was a great experience for me as someone with a swimming background.”
The former breaststroker exudes enthusiasm when speaking about the new campaign ahead. Her time away from Norton speaks for itself. This is her time. The Massachusetts native earned it. If you have never been to a swim meet, there is no better time than the present. Rich in talent within each class, more waves are bound to happen in 2023/2024 for the Lyons’ Swimming and Diving team.