Nike Invitational | Suited down this time around


More level playing field for Quakers after banning of special suits


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Junior Ainsley Cookingham and the Quakers expect to excel at the distance events at the Nike Invitational, but host Kenyon won’t be easy to beat overall.


The perpetual powerhouse Kenyon women’s swimming team doesn’t need an extra boost. But last year the Ladies had one.

When Penn traveled to Gambier, Ohio for last season’s Nike Invitational at Kenyon College, polyurethane-coated swimsuits were abundant among the Kenyon swimmers. But Penn only brought two of the expensive suits to Ohio, choosing which swimmers should and could wear them in each event.

One of the suits ripped on the first night. In the other suit, senior Stephanie Nerby broke the pool record with a time of 4:54.33 in the 500-yard freestyle.

Those suits have since been banned in the world of collegiate swimming, so when Penn participates in this year’s Invitational today through Saturday, the gap between the Quakers and the Ladies will be a little smaller.

“[The banning of the suits] will make the meet more about how fast a swimmer you are, not what suit you’re wearing,” said senior captain Amy Reams.

The Red and Blue will have another advantage this time around: Kansas and Colgate, last year’s winner and third-place finisher, respectively, won’t be making the trip this year. But Reams thinks the meet will maintain its level of competitiveness.

“Kenyon is a really good team, and the other programs have a few standout swimmers, so we’ll definitely have someone to race against,” she said.

Penn coach Mike Schnur sees Kenyon — which finished second in 2008 — as the Quakers’ biggest competitor but thinks that the meet will be determined by the depth of the teams, not necessarily by outstanding performances by a few swimmers.

For the Quakers, the Invitational provides a unique training for upcoming Ancient Eight competition.

“It’s a rehearsal for the Ivy Championships, because it’s the only time we’ll get to [swim twice a day],” Schnur said of the meet’s format, which features morning qualifying heats for evening finals.

“Dual meets don’t prepare you for championships at all. This meet does; it’s one of the reasons we go,” he said.

The meet’s invitational format also allows swimmers more freedom: In dual meets, a swimmer is restricted to competing in three individual events, but the Nike Invitational allows swimmers to compete in as many events as they want.

The results of this meet don’t factor into the Quakers’ season record, so this weekend is more about competing at a high level than winning.

“More importantly [than the results], I want to see how the girls react to swimming a lot of events and to swimming tired,” Schnur said.

Regardless of the outcome at the end of the three days, Penn expects to start with a bang. The meet today begins with distance events, which Schnur sees as one of his team’s strengths.

“We’re going to crush them,” he said with confidence. “We’ll score a lot of points. … The question is: The next two days, how will we do?”

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