History was made by the Penn women’s swimming team at the Ivy Championships this weekend.
The Quakers finished fourth overall at the Championships, which came to conclusion Saturday afternoon at the DeNunzio Pool at Princeton. Penn finished with 1,025 points, only behind three historic powers of Ivy League swimming, with Harvard, Yale and host Princeton making up the top three spots by the end of the weekend, respectively.
The fourth place-finish, which included seven school record-breaking swims, was overshadowed by several individual performances and the Red and Blue reaching the 1,000-point mark for the second time in the program’s history.
Coach Mike Schnur was elated with his team’s performance, crediting the success on hard work that started way before the season even got fully under way on the official season start date, October 1.
“Almost everything went right, “ he said. “The women worked really hard all season. We never deviated from the original plan that was to focus on this weekend. We had a whole lot of women who bought into that plan and were willing to pay the price for six months. When you work that hard for that long, a lot of good things can happen.”
The biggest moment of the weekend came when sophomore Virginia Burns won the team’s sole Ivy individual championship on Thursday, finishing first in the 500-yard freestyle to successfully defend her title from 2015.
“The whole group Virginia trains with had a great meet. She is not successful in a vacuum. It’s a great group to work with and they push each other every day,” Schnur said. “For Virginia to get her second title in a row, it was really cool, but it was even better because [freshman] Madison Visco got second. That’s the first time in the history of the program, men or women, to have us finish first and second in an event.”
The sole relay record broken by the Quakers on the weekend came when the duo of distance freestylers paired with sophomore Ryan Alexander and freshman Mary Whiting in the 800-yard freestyle relay to shatter Penn's previous school record set in 2014 by four seconds with a time of 7:14.21 — a testament to the depth of Schnur's distance group.
Going forward, this great showing at the Ivy League finale could have big potential upsides for the Penn program, including in the realm of recruiting.
“When you have people who are improving as much as our women, I think high school swimmers take note of that. When someone like Virginia is 20 seconds faster than she was in high school, people know that.
"Maybe we don’t have the best facilities and maybe we’re not the best funded, but we have the kids who work the hardest, enjoy what they’re doing, and improve the most in the conference.”
The weekend also showed how bright the future is for Penn women’s swimming. Freshman Nancy Hu set a school record in the 200-yard butterfly, only to break her own record again later in the day with a time of 1:58.20, and classmate Libby Jardaleza set new marks for Penn in the 100- and 200-yard backstrokes. After the 500, Visco added a third place finish in the 1,000-yard freestyle and a fourth place finish in the mile — an impressive feat for a first-year athlete who only began focusing on the distance freestyle events since coming to Penn.
The Quakers' upperclassmen were not to be outdone. Junior Ellie Grimes lowered her previous school records in the 400-yard IM and 200-yard breaststroke with times of 4:16.16 and 2:15.55, respectively. Fellow junior Haley Wickham rewrote her 100-yard breaststroke record with a 1:02.05 swim in prelims.
“I’m so proud of our women. They had such a great year,” Schnur said. “They are such a cohesive unit and that’s what is really fun for a coach. There were no difficult personalities and they bonded from day one. They pushed each other in training and enjoyed each other’s success.
“It was a great joy to coach this year.”
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