Third place is the charm
Penn hasn't finished in top three since 1972
March 3, 2011, 2:31 am · Updated March 3, 2011, 12:00 am·
After watching a valiant effort from the women’s swimming team at its Ivy Championships last weekend, coach Mike Schnur believes the men are “really fired up” to put on a strong performance of their own this weekend at the men’s championships.
Last weekend, the women fell just short of their goal of a top-three finish, losing to Columbia by just six points, 894 to 888. Princeton and Harvard, perennial favorites, finished first and second, respectively, and will most likely do the same on the men’s side this weekend at Harvard’s Blodgett Pool.
“As a team, we want to come in the top three,” junior Brendan McHugh said. “It’s pretty much that cut and dry.”
This goal is particularly ambitious given that the team has not finished in the top three in a postseason meet since 1972.
McHugh’s personal goals are no less ambitious. “I want to win three events,” he explained, referring to the 100-yard breast, 200 breast and the 200 individual medley. “Anything less than that, I won’t be 100 percent happy.”
Until last weekend, only one Penn swimmer had ever won three events, the maximum number of individual races one can swim in a championship meet. However, this past weekend, freshman Shelby Fortin won her three individual events, matching Robert Atkinson’s 1973 feat.
McHugh believes that watching the women’s meet definitely helped him improve his mental outlook for this weekend.
“[The women’s success] is a testament to the fact that [Schnur] knows what he’s doing,” he said. “It builds confidence, because it means that if our girls are swimming, we can swim fast too.”
For McHugh to match this historic feat, he will have to defeat Princeton junior Jon Christensen, who is seeded ahead of him in the three individual events that McHugh will swim.
“For Brendan to beat Christensen, he’s going to need to swim the best races he’s ever swum,” Schnur said.
McHugh, however, is not short on confidence. “I don’t really know how fast he can go, but I know how fast I can go, and I don’t think he can go that fast,” he said.
Like the women, the men’s team’s biggest obstacle to a top-three finish is Columbia. The Lions beat Penn 198.5-101.5 in a dual meet earlier this year.
Columbia is led by Adam Powell, whom Schnur called “the best swimmer in the Ivy League” and Hyun Lee, a sixth-year senior who rejoined Columbia midseason after a stint in the Korean army. Schnur expects Lee to finish among the top three in all three of his individual races.
“It’s going to be difficult for our 19-year-olds to swim against a 25-year old, but we’re up to the challenge,” Schnur noted.
After a two-week taper, the Quakers will be well-rested, looking to take care of Penn’s unfinished business with a win over Columbia and that coveted top-three finish.