Most Penn swimmers will receive a rare mid-season respite Friday afternoon, being placed in off events at the team’s dual meet at West Chester.
But not senior Brendan McHugh.
The Quakers’ record holder will stick with his trademark breaststroke — though hardly for his need to practice.
“We’ll put Brendan in the 100 breast to go after another pool record,” coach Mike Schnur said. “It’s his ‘pool record across the Northeast’ tour at this point, which is kind of fun.”
The rest of the Red and Blue, however, will use the meet against the Division II Golden Rams as a much-needed reprieve after a rigorous Ivy schedule, including most recently a tri-meet against Dartmouth and Yale in Hanover, N.H.
With tough meets coming almost weekly, Friday’s matchup gives the Quakers an opportunity to break away from their normal meet routine.
“The most important thing is to get a lot of people involved and have a lot of people on the team get a chance to swim,” Schnur said. “For some of the dual meets with travel squads, we had to leave eight or nine people because of travel expenses. We’re going to be in a position to bring all of them to this meet and maybe move our lineup around a little bit.”
With the Ivy Championships looming, the West Chester meet provides the coaches a relatively risk-free chance to place swimmers in different events — something that’s impossible to do against Ivy League teams.
“The guys have not had a meet all year where we haven’t had our absolute best lineup,” Schnur said. “And on Friday we’ll have a chance to move some stuff around.”
Though West Chester is a Division II team, the meet still gives Penn the opportunity to swim in the intense atmosphere of real competition, but without the pressure associated with swimming against conference rivals.
“I think it’s really important to race, especially at the end of the year, [to] get the little things right,” senior Rebecca James said. “We don’t get many chances to practice starts, and just race strategies, so it’s definitely nice that we have two more meets ahead of us.”
Though Penn has handled West Chester fairly easily in the past few years, Schnur takes nothing for granted.
“We’ve had some really good competition with West Chester in the past,” Schnur said of the Rams, whose women’s team took eighth last year at NCAAs. “I can remember two or three years in a row where the meet came down to the last relay. They’ll be ready to compete.”
Regardless of the final score, West Chester will serve as a much-needed ramp-up for the coming Ivy Championships.