Without a doubt, it’s been a tough year for the Penn women’s swim team. Sitting at sixth place in the Ivy League, the women have managed only two conference wins.
But over the past month, the Quakers have rattled off three straight meet victories. The Ivy Championships, which begin today at Harvard’s Blodgett pool, couldn’t be coming at a better time.
Going into the meet, the Red and Blue (7-6, 2-5 Ivy) will be looking to improve upon their disappointing regular season campaign, which included close losses to Princeton, Dartmouth and Yale.
“I think that this year we definitely have opportunities for a lot of people to make top eight,” senior captain Jennifer Claydon said, referring to the final heat for each event. “Probably more so than in previous years.”
But it will be no easy task, as the Quakers will face stiff competition from formidable Ivy opponents, most notably a deep Harvard team that went undefeated in the league and only suffered defeats in dual meets at the hands of Big Ten schools Northwestern and Iowa.
“I think everyone knows they’re the favorite. They have one of the top freshmen classes in the entire nation,” Claydon said. “So they’re definitely the top competitor in this situation.”
A victory by Harvard would end Princeton’s streak of two consecutive league championships. The Tigers currently sit in third place, while Columbia comes into the championship meet ranked second in the Ivy League — its only conference loss coming to Harvard.
Though an Ivy League victory is almost certainly not in the cards, the Quakers hope to do enough over the next three days to break into the top three, one spot ahead of their fourth-place finish last season.
“Between us, Columbia and Yale, we’re all going to be fighting for third,” Claydon said.
“[But] if we walked out of here not getting third, I don’t think we’re going to feel like we failed.”
Penn does have the advantage of having faced multiple non-conference opponents in the interim between conference meets and the Ivy Championships — the team won its last three meets against West Chester, UMBC and La Salle. The Quakers hope that experience will benefit them in the pool this weekend.
“It was good to get away from the Ivy teams,” sophomore Kristi Edleson said. “So now it will be time to show off what we’ve done the past couple of weeks.”
This will be the final meet donning the school colors for the team’s six seniors. For the younger underclassmen who comprise the majority of the team, however, this meet grants an opportunity to gain experience swimming with the highest of stakes.
The Quakers, however, aren’t looking too far ahead, as they hope to finish out this season on a high note.
“We feel really prepared this year,” Edleson said. “This is one of the best teams we’ve ever had, so we’re looking for a really good meet this year.”