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Photo: Hain Yoon

Penn’s men's and women's swimming and diving made a long trek to Knoxville, Tenn. over the weekend to compete against the nation's best in the Tennessee Invitational.

After the three long days of intense competition, the women placed fifth out of eight teams with 346 points, while the men came in third with 733 points, finishing behind only Denver (by just seven points) and the hosts, No. 15 Tennessee.

On Thursday, senior Virginia Burns put in a strong effort, finishing the 500-yard freestyle in 4:45.52 to take fourth place. On the back of Burns’ performance, the women’s team entered day two in fifth.

Burns continued her strong weekend on Friday, finishing second in the 200-yard freestyle with a time of 1:46.79.  The women remained in fifth place again after day two, and although they sought to bridge the gap to the top four on Saturday, the margin was too wide.

Though the women were unable to improve on their place in the overall standings, two swimmers besides Burns stood out for the women’s team on the final day — rookie Quinn Scannell and junior Nancy Hu. Scannell finished the 200-yard backstroke in 1:58.94, good enough for ninth place. Hu zoomed through the 200-yard butterfly in 1:59.14, which earned her sixth in the race.

On the men’s side, the foursome of junior Thomas Dillinger, freshman Sean Lee, junior Mark Blinstrub, and junior Mark Andrew carried the team to a second-place finish on day one. The quartet finished third in the 200-yard medley with a time of 1:18.69, third in the 400-yard medley at 3:12.31 and finished second-through-fifth, respectively, in the 200-yard individual medley.  Their strong day had the men in second place behind host Tennessee after Thursday.

Andrew continued his high-level swimming on day two, picking up Penn’s first individual win in the 400-yard individual medley with a time of 3:46.99. Blinstrub also contributed to an impressive day for Penn, posting a top-five finish in the 100-yard backstroke with a time of 47.54.

On day three, rookie distance swimmer Will Thomas stood out for the men's team, finishing the 1,650-yard freestyle in second place with a time of 15:06.52. Lee finished as the runner-up in his race as well, swimming the 200-yard butterfly in 1:45.20. Blinstrub rounded out the day for Penn with a top-five finish in the 200-yard backstroke.

The men's podium-place finish started the season on a high note, especially since the Quakers finished just seven points behind Denver, who received multiple votes in the CSCAA Coaches' Poll. 

The women, meanwhile, may not have finished in the top half of its meet, but the level of competition could hardly have been any higher. No. 7 Tennessee and No. 22 North Carolina provided stiff competition for the Quakers, while Duke, who also received multiple votes in the CSCAA Coaches' Poll, gave the Philadelphians a hard time as well. 

Overall, the invitational provided Penn a great chance to face opponents the team's top individuals could see later on at the championship end of the season and got the Quakers' 2017-18 campaign off on the right foot. 

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