SEANNA MATTHEWS LOMBARDO ’99 – WOMEN’ SWIMMING
Seanna Matthews Lombardo becomes the third women’s swimmer to be inducted into the Keene State Alumni Athletic Hall of Fame.
Competing during a transitional time for the program, with Keene State moving from Division II to Division III, Matthews Lombardo, a fourth-generation KSC student, helped the Owls navigate through tough waters and become successful at developing swimmers who could compete at the regional level.
Matthews Lombardo took to the water early, jumping in the pool at the age of 7. “My mom was convinced I was born with gills,” she said. “I played three sports in high school, but swimming was the one I was most passionate about and did the best.”
A native of Wilbraham, Massachusetts, Matthews Lombardo came to Keene State from Minnechaug Regional High School, where she earned All-Western Mass honors as a junior and senior and was named to the Coaches All-Star team for four seasons.
It didn’t take long for Matthews Lombardo, who competed for KSC from 1995-99, to get her feet wet and become one of the top freestyle, individual medley, and backstroke swimmers on the up-and-coming team. Not only were the Owls swimming circles around their opponents during dual meets, including an undefeated 20-0 season her senior year, but also making headway at the highly competitive New England Championship, which at the time included NESCAC powers Williams and Amherst colleges.
A four-time New England Championship qualifier, Matthews Lombardo reached the finals in both the 50 free and 50 back as a sophomore, posted top-10 finishes in the 50 free and 100 individual medley as a junior, and capped off her senior season by placing seventh in the 50 back and ninth in the 50 free. Matthews Lombardo led KSC to a 14th-place finish at the meet as a senior, the team’s best finish in over a decade.
“I like things that challenge me,” said Matthews Lombardo. “The strong competition definitely didn’t intimidate me. It made me work that much harder.”
At one point Matthews Lombardo held four school records – in the 50 and 100 freestyle, the 50 back, and the 100 individual medley. “To see my name up on the record board just made me work harder,” she said. “It made me want to break the records again.”
She also set a provisional NCAA qualifying time in the 50 free as a senior. “The minute I saw the time I burst into tears,” she said. “It was one of the proudest moments of my life.”
Matthews Lombardo, who also qualified for the Eastern College Athletic Conference Open Championships, gave credit to Coach Gene Leonard and her teammates for much of her success. “I didn’t do it alone. I attribute a lot of our success to my teammates. We were a family. We picked each other up in and out of the pool,” said Matthews Lombardo. “Gene made us believe in ourselves that we could do it. And we did.”
“Seanna was a fierce competitor,” said teammate and fellow co-captain Jennifer Gagnon. “She knew what she wanted and wasn’t going to let anyone slow her down. You could see the fire inside her all the time.”
“I was very proud of what I accomplished at Keene State,” said Matthews Lombardo. “It was a very humbling feeling when I found out I was going to be inducted into the College’s Athletic Hall of Fame. I know the team is doing very well right now. But I feel we helped pave the way for their success.”