Samantha McDonald (left) and Irina Chiulli (right) say hello to one another and pose for a pic following their incredible performances at the A-10 Championships on February 16. Photos by Joe McDonald
By Michael Flanagan
Hometown Weekly Sports Editor
Throughout their upbringings in Westwood, Irina Chiulli and Samantha McDonald saw a lot of each other. Whether in the pool, in the hallways at school, on the bus, in their driveways, or in their living rooms, the two now-NCAA Division I swimmers for Richmond University (Chiulli) and Fordham (McDonald) were always a significant part of each other’s lives. Following their graduations from Westwood High, where McDonald dominated the competitive racing and Chiulli on the diving boards, the two friends departed for college. In 2017, they met up once again in the pool at the NCAA Division I Championships in Geneva, Ohio on February 16.
Chiulli, a senior at Richmond, is best remembered in Westwood as the most accomplished diver in WHS history. During her time as a Wolverine, Chiulli was a four-time Massachusetts state diving champion as well as a four-time Boston Globe All-Scholastic. During her junior and senior seasons at Westwood High, Chiulli was named a High School All-American. Chiulli shattered the school’s all-time one-meter diving record score of 254 when she posted up a ridiculous 299 during her senior year before signing her NLI to attend the University of Richmond.
As a freshman at Richmond (VA), Chiulli set school freshman records on both the one and three-meter boards, and was named Atlantic-10 Rookie of the Week three times throughout the 2013-2014 season. As an upperclassman, Irina set school records on the one meter and three-meter boards, and was seven times chosen as the Atlantic-10 Performer of the Week. Chiulli twice won the Atlantic 10 Conference championship on the three-meter board, and was also the recipient of the Atlantic-10 Conference’s Most Outstanding Diver award during her junior season.
Each year at Richmond, Irina Chiulli qualified to compete at the NCAA Division I Zone Diving Championships. As a senior, Irina was named a captain of the Spider swimming and diving team and helped lead the group to an incredibly successful season. With her collegiate swimming career having now come to a close, the dual major in psychology and cognitive science is set to graduate from the U of R this May.
While Chiulli’s incredible and storied collegiate swimming career has come to an end, McDonald’s is just getting started after having just completed her freshman campaign at Fordham this past winter. Samantha had an amazing weekend at the Atlantic-10 Championships, posting lightning-fast times in her freestyle events. McDonald was clocked at 23.4 in her 50-meter freestyle and earned herself a tie for sixth place in the “A” Finals before coming in at 51.4 in the 100-meter freestyle and 1:54 in the 200-meter freestyle.
McDonald’s greatest accomplishments at the A-10 championships, however, were her 50.6 split time in the 400-meter freestyle relay and a split time of 22.9 in the 200-meter relay. Thanks to McDonald’s efforts, Fordham was able to capture the Bronze Medal and place third in the conference tournament.
Congratulations to Irina Chiulli and Samantha McDonald on these incredible accomplishments. Best of luck to McDonald for the remainder of her collegiate swimming career and to Chiulli, who gets set to enter post-college life this summer.