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Junior Virginia Burns will anchor a strong group of women's distance swimmers in 2016-2017.

Photo: Ananya Chandra / The Daily Pennsylvanian

Penn women’s distance swimming reached nearly unprecedented levels of success for the program last year, and comes into this season overflowing with optimism and ready to meet the heightened expectations.

It is no fluke that Mike Schnur was selected to be the 2016 Ivy League Women’s Coach of the Year. Under his tutelage, the women’s program, and in particular the distance team, has gradually progressed into a potential threat to perennial powerhouses Harvard, Yale and Princeton. But what really secured the award for Schnur was the team’s remarkable performance in the Ivy League Championships.

Then-sophomore Virginia Burns set the tone on day one for the distance team’s success, securing a victory in the 500-yard freestyle final, with then-freshman Madison Visco following closely behind in second.

Burns may have been the Red and Blue's only first-place finisher of the meet, but a multitude of second and third-place finishes from the likes of Visco, Burns and sophomore Nancy Hu, in conjunction with consistently strong efforts from the relays, resulted in the Quakers’ fourth-place finish and second-highest point tally in team history. Seven school records fell in the process as well.

In addition to retaining the core of the distance team, the addition of strong new class, headed by freshmen Grace Ferry and Kaitlin Stearns, puts the Red and Blue in an even better position to close the gap between themselves and the trifecta of Harvard, Yale and Princeton.

Mike Schnur is placing a lot of responsibility on the experienced members of the team to help the new swimmers get used to the next level of competition in preparation for the upcoming meet against Army and Columbia.

“I think we have a lot of really good, older kids on the team that know how to race,” Schnur said. 

Concerning the younger members of the team, he said, “I hope they get out there and learn from the older men and women how to attack a dual meet.”

He foresees leadership in the distance team to remain in the same hands for the upcoming season, which gives good reason to be excited for what the season holds and for the contributions from the new, exciting freshman class.

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