Nancy Hu might just be asking “Who?” in regard to her competition at this year’s Ivy League swimming championships.
No other words but utter dominance can describe the junior’s outstanding season in the 200-yard butterfly. Besides two races, Hu has finished first every single time she’s lined up on the blocks for the 200 fly so far. She will hope to continue her winning trend this weekend at the Ivies.
But what about those couple of times she didn’t finish first?
Well the first time, at the Tennessee Invitational, Hu competed against teams scattered throughout the NCAA top 25 rankings — three competitors finishing before her hailed from two of these ranked schools — and she still managed a top-10 finish at sixth. The invitational was also the most competitive of this year’s season, with seven schools in competition compared to the Ivy League’s usual two or three.
The second instance happened during Penn’s dual meet with Dartmouth and Yale at the beginning of January, where Hu received second place to Yale’s Bebe Thompson. Although Thompson, a freshman, has also had a successful year, her best 200 fly time is more than three seconds slower than Hu’s best time, 1:58.20. That time is a current Penn record she set her freshman year at the championships, where she came in third.
Furthermore, according to Hu’s coach Mike Schnur, he expected her to be slow at the meet against Dartmouth and Yale, which fell towards the middle of the season.
“She should’ve been slow, and now she’ll be peaking [at the championships],” Schnur said.
Having been injured last year and having set an unbelievable precedent her freshman year, many would expect Hu to be drowning in worry, and yet she’s more balanced than ever.
“I’ve been around the blocks several times, so I trust what I’m doing,” Hu said.
Of course, Hu’s success this season has simply been a lead-up to her actual goal of winning the Ivies once and for all and cementing her legacy as a champion. Last year’s winning time, 1:57.96, swum by Harvard’s Britta Usinger, undercuts Hu’s freshman-year record by less than three tenths of a second. If her training has provided her with enough momentum, Hu seems more than poised to claim her first championship win — and maybe even another record while she’s at it.
The funny thing is that, before joining Penn’s swimming and diving team, Hu had never really focused on the fly stroke. It was Schnur that convinced her to work at it, and the rest is history.
“[He] just makes me do fly every single day, all day, every day. It’s tough but it builds my confidence quite a bit,” Hu said about her coach’s unrelenting, but encouraging demeanor.
Given the confidence she's built while training and the stacks of accolades she’s claimed this year alone, Hu should have no trouble mustering a winning mindset for this weekend.
“Nancy’s goal from day one this season has been to win the Ivy championships,” Schnur said.
“I definitely have a shot," Hu said. "But it comes down to that day and who wants it more."
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