For the members of Penn men’s swimming, this weekend’s Ivy League Championships will take on a variety of meanings. For some, it represents an opportunity to make an impression. Others see it as a way to cement a legacy.
In both cases, the year-end tournament at Brown will cap one of the Quakers’ most successful seasons in recent memory. Captained by seniors Chris Swanson and Eric Schultz, the team won nine of its dual and tri-meets and only lost to Ivy opponents Harvard and Princeton. Along with its impressive record, Penn achieved an all-time high national rank of No. 24 in the College Swimming Coaches Association of America poll and reached a peak position of 13th in College Swimming’s annual mid-year rankings.
The team’s overall success can be traced to stellar individual efforts displayed throughout the season. Swanson and Schultz were nothing short of dominant, vanquishing the field nearly every time they entered the water in their respective freestyle races. The pair added to their extensive collection of school records, bringing the total to 11 between them.
Swanson once again proved his distance prowess, recording a personal-best and school record time of 14:41.54 in the 1,650-yard freestyle in addition to breaking a 36-year-old Sheerr Pool record in the 1,000 free, set by Olympic silver medalist Bobby Hackett.
Schultz, who supplemented his teammate’s endurance with his elite speed, broke Penn’s all-time mark in the 100 free with a time of 42.83 and served as an anchor for the fastest 800 free relay swim in school history at the Total Performance Invitational hosted by Kenyon College in December.
Given their illustrious careers, Schultz and Swanson would be excused if they felt some nostalgia entering their final Ivy Championships. For these seniors, however, the opposite is true, as the duo is highly focused on emerging victorious both individually and collectively as a team.
“I’m not really thinking about this as an end of my career or anything,” Swanson said. “Just trying to go in and do what I’ve done every year and to try and score as many points for the team as I can. I’m really not thinking about what I’m going to do afterwards or that this is the last one.”
After a fourth-place finish at Ivies last year with a team score of 1,042.5 points, the Red and Blue will look to challenge the supremacy of Harvard and Princeton, who are dually responsible for the last 23 Ivy Championships. Swanson and Schultz carried the load last year, with Swanson racking up three wins, including a Ivy League record in the 1,000 free. Schultz contributed a championship of his own in the 200 free by swimming a school-best 1:34:80.
This year, however, the seasoned veterans should have significantly more help. Freshmen Thomas Dillinger and Mark Andrew have had exceptional starts to their careers for the Quakers, with several first- and second-place finishes against quality competition in the individual medley and sprint freestyle events. Andrew submitted one of the most surprising performances of the season at the Total Performance Invitational, setting a school record in the 400 IM. Dillinger has particularly impressed as of late, including a victory in the 200 IM at the Harvard-Brown tri-meet.
Because of these accomplishments, coach Mike Schnur has no concerns about the youngsters’ ability to handle the pressure of their first collegiate championships.
“Both Thomas and Mark have experience in national-level meets. This summer, both Mark and Thomas made finals in the 200 IM at Junior Nationals,” Schnur said. “Mark was second and Thomas was fourth. That’s pressure. Both of those guys have been in this kind of situation.”
These two dynamic duos will look to try to bring Penn its first Ivy crown since 1971 and ensure that this season will be one for the history books.
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