The final week of classes marks the beginning of exams for most Penn students. It’s a time to hunker down in Van Pelt for hours on end in the last gasp before winter break.
The women’s swimming team, however, has to deal with an added responsibility on top of the normal end-of-the-year workload: traveling to New York to swim against Columbia and Harvard.
The Crimson are the best team in the Ivy League this year, according to Penn coach Mike Schnur.
Though facing two Ivy League opponents in one meet may seem like a tall order in and of itself, it is something the Quakers have become accustomed to doing.
“A tri-meet is in a lot of ways easier than a dual meet because we get two heats per event, and more people get to swim while you have a little more rest,” Schnur said.
But for this tri-meet, the team will face many unique obstacles.
“The challenge with this tri-meet is that Columbia’s pool is so awful,” Schnur said. “They don’t have a warm-down pool, so you have to try and warm down every other event or something. Our women count on warm downs because we’re still training pretty hard.”
The condition of the pool is just one of the challenges Penn must overcome this afternoon. Though the team is coming off two consecutive victories, including a first-place finish out of six teams at the Total Performance Invitational at Kenyon, momentum is hard to come by.
“All I’ve been hearing this week is how sick they are and how tired they are from Kenyon,” Schnur said.
Still, last week’s meet left some beneficial side effects, especially among the younger members of the team.
“We had a lot of people have really fast swims this past weekend, and so it just sets people up really well,” senior Jennifer Claydon said. “It puts them in a good mindset, knowing that they are capable of going really fast.”
By far, the greatest hurdle facing the Red and the Blue Friday is the talented Harvard squad, led by an unmatched freshman class.
“The talent level of their freshman class is far above all of [the] other teams in our league,” Schnur said. “I don’t know how they did it, but they have one of the top five recruiting classes in America.”
Harvard freshman Courtney Otto, who broke every individual swimming record at her high school, took first in the 200-yard butterfly against Cornell and Dartmouth in November and will be one of the rookies on Penn’s radar.
The Quakers will certainly have their hands full Friday afternoon in Manhattan. Despite all of the challenges, however, the swimmers don’t see the meet as a done deal.
“I think on Friday it will just be about who wants to win,” Claydon said.
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