This weekend, Penn swimmers will race in a unique early-season meet.
In fact, coach Mike Schnur said his teams travel to Gambier, Ohio for the Total Performance Invitational because it presents specific challenges that other meets don’t.
The meet, located at the Kenyon Aquatic Center at Kenyon College, kicks off Thursday night.
Unlike dual meets, there aren’t any limits on the number of events in which each swimmer can participate. Many of the swimmers are using this invitational as an opportunity to achieve personal bests and demonstrate their abilities.
“If you’re on the bubble for making the Ivy team, this is where you either prove yourself or don’t,” senior co-captain Brendan McHugh said.
Senior co-captain Jenny Claydon agreed, saying that “[Kenyon] is a way to gauge where you are and what you need to do going forward.”
As expected, one of the main team goals is to follow in the footsteps of last year and win the meet again. This will be a bit harder for the women with the absence of sophomore Shelby Fortin, who, in addition to fellow sophomore Kristi Edleson, will be swimming at the U.S. Winter National Championships at Georgia Tech.
“Basically the goal of [U.S. Nationals] is to get some national level experience swimming long course and to try to qualify for U.S. Olympic trials,” Schnur said.
This is one of only three opportunities Penn swimmers have to qualify for the Olympic trials during the season. There will also be a time trial the day after the Ivy Championship, followed by a U.S. sectional meet at the end of March.
Fortin has been trying to make her Olympic trial cuts for about a year now, so this weekend will give her the opportunity to see where she stands. Regarding Kenyon, she is not worried about the team.
“I think the team is going to do well,” she said. “I don’t think they’ll miss me that much.”
A big challenge for the Quakers will be Schnur’s absence from the meet, as he will be accompanying Fortin and Edleson in Atlanta.
“The head coach is not there, which puts a lot more pressure on the captains and assistant coaches to be leaders,” McHugh said.
Still, the team is looking to adapt to the unique challenges of the meet. On the women’s side, Carly Gurick, Blair Webb, Rebecca Aiello, Melissa Parrato and Jenny Claydon will be swimming in more events than in a typical dual meet.
On the men’s side, the team is looking to McHugh’s younger brother Dillon in addition to Chris Fleming, Robby Shilton, Ryan Littlefield, Paul Hartmeier and Eric Vanden Noort to swim a large number of events and rack up points.
The teams have spent the past week practicing in faster bathing suits, resting, shaving and preparing to swim fast.
But there will be some tough competition against the five other schools this weekend.
“Kenyon is a top Division III school in the country,” McHugh said, adding that getting a win shouldn’t be taken for granted.
However, this mentality is not stopping McHugh and other swimmers from having confidence in their individual abilities.
“I need to update the record board,” McHugh said.