Like a late-night trip to Wawa, it was a satisfying, though not perfect, finish.
It was one last hurrah for the Red and Blue in Maryland this weekend as most of the swim team went to the Eastern College Athletic Conference championships hosted at the United States Naval Academy.
While the top men were in Providence, R.I., for their Ivy Championship meet, the rest of the team sought to end the season on a high note among over 40 teams at the ECACs. For the seniors, it was the final meet of their college careers. For junior Rochelle Dong, on the other hand, there was nothing sentimental about this meet: just business.
After the women’s Ivy Championship meet last week, Dong was left unsatisfied. Her dream for the season was to qualify for the NCAA Championships. The only issue was that her 50-yard freestyle time of 22.50 was three-tenths of a second off an invitation.
So Dong traveled with the team down to Annapolis to get one last shot at making the national A-cut time standard, which would guarantee qualification. In the preliminaries for the 50 free, she even broke the ECAC meet record with a time of 22.61.
“I was pretty pleased with how I did,” Dong said.
Unfortunately for her, though, 22.61 seconds was only good enough to surpass the B-cut standard, leaving the future of her season shrouded in doubt.
“Unfortunately, I don’t think my time will be enough to make it this year,” she said, “but hopefully I’ll have a shot next year.”
Despite her clear disappointment, however, the junior star was proud of the team’s overall performance in the pool.
“I think we did really well,” Dong said. “We had some best times, some people dropped a lot of times, and for some people, it was the best meet all year. We did a really good job.”
Coach Mike Schnur echoed her response.
“I’m really glad that everyone went,” Schnur said. “A lot of our seniors had the chance to go to one more meet, and a lot of them had their best times. If we didn’t go to the ECACs, then they would have been cheated out of that.
“It’s fun to go down and compete with 40 or 50 other teams, and it’s a really fun championship meet. To see Morgan Scott finish her career with her best mile ever, and to see Brian Foley get his best 200 back time ever, as seniors, that’s really great.”
With that, Penn’s swimming program has now completed its season, with the exception of Chris Swanson and three other potential swimmers on the men’s side who could qualify for the NCAA championships hosted at Georgia Tech in March. Swanson’s bid to NCAAs is secure given his A-cut time in the 1,650-yard freestyle, while the three other men — senior Eric Schultz, sophomore Alex Peterson and freshman Mark Andrew — have strong B-cut times that should ensure an invitation.
But for the rest of the team, the time has now arrived to reflect on the season past.
“I’m pretty pleased overall,” Dong said. “I got quite a few personal records, some best times, and I’m pretty happy with how I did this season.”
“What would stand out this year is how hard our team worked,” Schnur echoed. “We had great team success, and we had great individual success, but our sport is really simple. When you work hard for seven months, and do all the right things, and come to training every day, good things happen. The kids on our team that busted their butts this year had a lot of rewards, and as a coach it’s great to see that.”
After a program record-high finish for the men and a strong finish for the women at Ivies, Schnur’s ambitions for the team were met on all fronts. Looking forward, he and Dong both see promise for the seasons to come.
“The program keeps getting better and better each year,” Dong said. “We’ve got some really fast freshmen recruits. We’re outperforming ourselves every year and I think it’s amazing to see that.”
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