One week after the women’s team placed fourth in the Ivy League championships, Penn men’s swimming is heading to Princeton for their own shot at the Ancient Eight crown.
And the Quakers have certainly proved that they can swim their best on the biggest stage of the year.
At the 2014 championships, the Red and Blue solidified their place as a top-tier Ivy team after they shocked the competition and notched a third place victory, the best finish for the program in 42 years.
But after the impressive showing last year, questions linger about whether the team can repeat its performance — especially with no male divers.
“Well, we are allowed to bring an extra swimmer [because we have no male divers],” coach Mike Schnur said. “What hurts us is that all the teams will have three divers or six divers, so that means we go in to the meet with two less or five less athletes.”
With Penn in a close race for the third place, the lack of points from the divers could potentially play a key role in the outcome for the Quakers.
“It is a huge disadvantage,” Schnur said. “It hurts us a lot especially against Columbia. Columbia is a very competitive team, and they are going to get around 80-90 diving points, and we have zero, so the guys got to make up for it by swimming even better.”
One of the guys looking to “make up for it” is superstar sprinter junior Eric Schultz, who was the first Penn swimmer since 1942 to win the 50 free at last year’s meet with a time of 19.70.
Schultz’s fellow captain, junior Chris Swanson, also brings star power to the team. This season, Swanson set the Penn record in the 1650 free and qualified for the NCAA DI men’s swimming championships with a time of 14:43.87.
“Our stars — Schultz and Swanson — I expect them to win six events,” Schnur said. “I expect both of them to win every event they swim and be ready to be two of the best swimmers in the country.”
So how do these swimmers stay focused when everyone expects so much out of them?
“It is pretty much just believing and trusting in the coaches,” Schultz said. “They know what you need to do, and you’re not going to feel the best throughout the whole week [before the meet], but once you get to the meet, you got to just trust that you’ll be able to go fast.”
Although the Quakers are 2-5 against Ivy League opponents this year, the Red and Blue know that the regular season means nothing when it comes down to this weekend’s meet.
“I think we can get third,” Schultz said. “Maybe the Ivy League doesn’t think so, but we think so.”
And if Schultz and the rest of his team believe, really anything is possible.
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