These days, no record is safe on Penn women's swimming

Since 2009, all 19 of the individual and team records have been set

· December 3, 2013, 4:55 pm   ·  Updated December 3, 2013, 5:49 pm

Zoe Gan | DP

Senior Shelby Fortin holds every Penn freestyle record.


Unless you frequently visit Penn’s Sheerr Pool, or are actually on the swimming team, you have probably never spent much time looking at the record boards that hang at the south end of the pool.

Since 2009, all 19 of the individual and team records for Penn women’s swimming have been set, with 11 of them having been broken in the last year. On the surface, this seems quite anomalous.

It is not as though women’s swimming is new to Penn. The Quakers have been competing in since the early 70’s. And Penn had taken home a few Ivy League titles before this wave of record setting swimmers, so the previous generation of Quakers swimmers certainly had talent. So what is it about the last four years that has caused such a spike in the performance of Penn’s competitors?

According to coach Mike Schnur, something very unique has happened to women’s Ivy League swimming.

The first thing that has happened in the past decade is that the Ivy League has become a viable option for the country’s elite swimming recruits.

“I think there is really a culture shift in the world period,” Schnur said. “Parents and kids alike are starting to see the benefits of an Ivy League degree, and now we are bringing in swimmers who would have in previous years passed us over for other schools.”

This is also due in part to the fact that the expansion of the Ivy League’s financial aid packages has mitigated the trade-offs that swimmers would have to have made if they were to give up full rides to other programs to come to Penn.

“In the last few years all the Ivy’s have really been able to expand their recruitment pool, and by following the financial aid models of Harvard and Princeton, we are finally able to attract top level talent,” Schnur said.

“It has become a win-win situation,” said former Penn swimmer Laura Klick, who holds the Penn records for the 100 meter breaststroke, 200 m breaststroke and 200 m individual medley. “We get to swim for a terrific program and graduate with an Ivy League education.”

In addition, swim suit technology has also played a factor in the spike in performance, but not in the way one would expect. In 2009, records were set at an enormous pace after the introduction of a tighter, more buoyant full body suit. These suits were banned from competition that same year, but surprisingly, records continued to fall at a rapid pace.

“Swimmers still expected to achieve those incredible times without the suits,” Klick said. “Since then, swimmers have pushed themselves to stay at that level despite the downgrade in suit technology.”

What’s more, this trend of record setting is likely to continue this way throughout the Ivy League.

“If you are an Ivy League School, and you have a women’s swimming record that is more than 5 years old, something is definitely wrong,” Schnur said. “Granted, every once in a while you will get an outlier, and when that happens, you might get some records that will stand for a while. But even when that happens, our girls still strive every day to break those times.”

The bottom line is that there has been a none-too-subtle change in the world of Ivy League woman’s swimming, and it has created a faster, more competitive conference.

“If we had last year’s team 10 years ago, we would have won the Ivy League, not even a question,” Schnur said. “Now, even with our level of talent, we still only finished sixth. That’s just crazy.”

Crazy as it may be, this is the new reality in women’s swimming, and before the year is out, maybe even that lone 2009 record may be ancient history.

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