Division I, meet Division III.
On Thursday, the Quakers will compete against teams from Kenyon, Johns Hopkins and Carnegie Mellon in the first of three days at the Total Performance Invitational hosted by Kenyon College, in Gambier, Ohio.
Although Kenyon is a D-III school, this Invitational carries much a lot of weight for the program. Kenyon swimming has a reputation as the preeminent D-III team, having won 35 National Championships.
“They’re the best Division III team of all time. They are a far better team than some Ivy League teams we compete against,” Penn coach Mike Schnur said.
The invitational itself has a similar reputation, as it draws the attention of many other top D-I programs.
“They have one of the fastest pools in the country,” Schnur said. “It’s not a coincidence that Chris Swanson made his NCAA cut there last year.
“It’s usually the fastest pool we swim in every year.”
Although this is Penn’s only meet this month, performance in this pool is largely indicative for the season to come. And there’s nothing like a midseason marker to increase expectations for this squad.
“This meet acts as a springboard for the rest of the season,” Schnur said. “Last year, both teams swam very well here, and it really springboarded us through exceptional training for the remainder of the season and to a great Ivy Championship meet.”
As such, both the men’s and women’s teams have been doing much to prepare, with goals that focus mainly on speed.
“We’re really excited because a lot of us are tapering,” sophomore Sydney Tan said. “Our team has about 25 goals that we want to accomplish. It’s all a team effort, because we all want to get under certain times.”
“We just want to swim fast,” senior Eric Schultz added. “The guys are all rested and ready to go. We’ve been training for two and a half months. It’s definitely been a grind.”
Another draw for the Quakers to this meet is the opportunity to swim their off-events. Because Kenyon offers more flexibility in the competition, swimmers can swim up to eight different events as opposed to their usual three conference events.
“We’re there to swim a lot of fun events. I’m swimming some events that I only swim once a year, at this meet particularly,” junior Rochelle Dong said.
Traditionally freshmen swim more events than upperclassmen at this meet, so the bar of expectations for the rookies is set higher than that of others.
“They’re all so fast. Some of the girls are getting fast times for events they’ve never swam before,” Dong said. “The freshmen are really upping the game and putting a bit of pressure on us upperclassmen.”
“We have a lot of new versatile kids on our team, like [freshmen] Thomas Dillinger and Madison Visco,” Schnur added. “They’re all exceptional, but we’re trying to narrow them down to see what events they should do.”
Unlike many of the team’s other meets this season, this particular invitational is more about swimming for sport and team bonding than it is about winning.
“Meets like the NCAA’s are more individual type meets, but Kenyon has more of a team atmosphere,” Schultz said. “You score points for your team. It’s all about the team. That’s what I kind of like about this intercollegiate meet.
“This is one of our most fun meets. ... Our team always comes together for this meet for a good time. It’s because we won’t be focused on winning or losing.”
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