Winter has finally arrived here in Philadelphia, but while temperatures fall, things are just starting to heat up for Penn in the Ivy League swimming season.
The men’s team, coming off a sweep of Yale and Dartmouth on Saturday to start its 2016 campaign, will look to stay hot as they head to chilly Cambridge, Mass., for another tri-meet with Harvard and Brown.
The Quakers were impressive right from the start, finishing the day with nine total event victories. One of the most notable wins involved senior captain Chris Swanson, who rewrote a 36-year-old Sheerr Pool record in the 1,000-meter freestyle, shattering the previous record held by Harvard grad and Olympic silver medalist Bobby Hackett by almost three seconds.
This weekend Penn takes on Brown, who finished seventh in the Ancient Eight standings in 2015, three slots below a fourth-place Quakers squad. Harvard, however, is coming off a second-place finish in the Ivy League last season and will be one of the toughest tests the Red and Blue will face during the dual meet slate this year.
Coach Mike Schnur says his team is ready for the challenge, but doesn’t necessarily think confidence builds from one meet to the next.
“It’s a little like baseball where your momentum going forward is only as good as your next day’s starting pitcher,” he said. “I think our guys understand that Harvard is a good team. They’re one of the best teams in the country but we’ve been a confident team all year because we work hard.
“We are going to be ready to go and we are going to swim to the best of our ability. And if that’s good enough against Harvard then we will find out. It’ll be a fun day I think.”
While the Quakers have two of the most talented and accomplished swimmers in the country, Swanson and Eric Schultz, to beat the best teams in the country Penn will need to continue getting success from the depth in their lineup like they did against Yale and Dartmouth.
“Harvard has an extraordinarily deep team. They have a lot more athletes than we do and have a lot of really talented kids on that team. Depth is important in dual meets. If Eric wins his races and Chris wins his races, well that’s not enough,” Schnur said. “In order to beat a team like Harvard, our breaststrokers have to win, guys like Mark Andrew and Thomas Dillinger have to finish first and second in the IM.
“Winning will be about the rest of our guys beating their sprinters because if we win a race, and [Harvard] finishes second, third, and fourth, it doesn’t do us any good because we pick up just one point.”
This weekend, the women’s swim and dive team will also be in action against Harvard and Brown after splitting last week’s meet, defeating Dartmouth but falling to Yale. The competition that awaits from Brown and Harvard for the women closely resembles their male counterparts. At last year’s Ivy League championship meet, Brown finished in sixth while Harvard, a perennial powerhouse, took second only to Princeton.
“On the women’s side the Brown team is really good and our women will be challenged not only by Harvard but also by Brown. They need to focus on that, but they’ve been swimming really well for six weeks now so they’ll go up there and do what they do best, and that’s compete their hearts out.”
Coming back from break, which included a 10-day team training trip to Boca Raton, Fla., both Quakers squads will need to transition back into life on campus while still preparing for one of the biggest meets of the season.
“It’s a whole different atmosphere,” he said. ”It is a transition for these couple weeks and I hope we handle it well.”
Although it's early in the season, Schnur emphasized the importance of maintaining a high level of intensity during practices, because the team has its eyes set on the biggest prize, the end-of-year Ivy League Championships.
“This time of the season it’s really important to continue training hard because the Ivy championship meet is way more important than this and if you back off at this point of the year you will have problems five weeks from now,” he said. “So the whole idea is just to continue the hard work right now.”
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