There’s no better way to finish the year than with a chance to compete for a national title.
With its season nearly over, Penn men’s swimming sent two representatives, junior captains Chris Swanson and Eric Schultz, to the NCAA Championships for one last hurrah, giving the Quakers an opportunity to showcase their top performers on a national stage.
The meet — which took place in Iowa City over the weekend — marked a historic event for the Red and Blue, as it represented the first time since 1971 that the team sent two swimmers to compete at the championships. Schultz qualified for NCAAs for the first time in his career after swimming well at the Ivy League Championships last month whereas Swanson swam his A-cut time back in December, making 2015 his third appearance in as many seasons.
Swanson’s time of 14:50.66 in the 1650-yard freestyle was good enough for an 11th place overall finish, which gave Penn six team points. Swanson finished two spots lower than his ninth-place mark in 2014, but it was the second consecutive NCAAs at which he earned All-American honorable mention status.
Overall, the Quakers placed 36th out of the 52 teams competing in the championships, and tallied the most points of the other four Ivy League schools in attendance, Columbia, Harvard, Princeton and Yale. In addition to the 1650, Swanson swam in the preliminary 500-yard freestyle, while Schultz swam in the preliminary round for the 50-, 100- and 200-yard freestyle races.
For Schultz, the experience of swimming against the best in the nation was a valuable opportunity.
“It was a really eye-opening experience for me,” Schultz said. “I have never been at a meet where the swimmers are at this caliber, and [NCAAs are] probably one of the best meets in the world.
“Seeing such high levels of talent gets me hungry for next year’s season.”
The Quakers’ performance at the event comes after a respectable fourth-place finish at Ivies in February.
“The three teams that finished ahead of us at Ivies — Harvard, Yale, and Princeton— are all very talented and present their own unique challenges,” coach Mike Schnur said. “However, with that said, it was very satisfying as a coach to see us place at the top of the Ivy League at the NCAA national championships.”
As the season comes to a close, Schnur expects most of Penn’s swimmers to maintain their form over the offseason, as many of the team’s members will be training for non-collegiate events, such as the US National Championships in August and the qualifying events for the 2016 Olympic trials.
“A lot of our guys are working towards a spot in Omaha [the site of next summer’s Olympic trials], so they will be training hard this offseason,” Schnur said.
While the team had its fair share of strong performances this season, it seems realistic to suggest that the Quakers will come out even stronger next year.
“Next year’s freshman class is shaping up to be one of the strongest set of recruits in recent memory,” Schnur said. “If the incoming freshmen just follow the lead of the more experienced swimmers, we will have a great shot at repeating and hopefully exceeding our results from this season.”
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