Men’s basketball is not the only sport taking on a top Harvard team this weekend.
In the last home meet for seniors on the Penn men’s swim team Saturday, the Quakers (8-3, 3-3 Ivy) must take on the Crimson (5-2, 5-1).
“They’re bringing all 35 guys this week. They’re bringing their whole team down,” coach Mike Schnur said. “They’re going to be blazing fast.”
Harvard is consistently the team to beat in the Ivy League, usually fighting with Princeton for first place.
“They’ve been a good team for 45 years,” Schnur said. “They’re a great team.”
Whether or not a loss to the Tigers revved up Harvard’s drive to win this meet, they still remain one of the top teams in the league and one the biggest challenges to date for the Quakers.
One of the biggest threats to the Red and Blue is Harvard’s freshman breaststroker, Chuck Katis, whose times rival those of Penn senior captain, Brendan McHugh.
“Their breaststroker went, against Princeton, faster than I’ve gone in a dual meet all year,” McHugh said.
Though McHugh has quicker personal bests in larger meets, he must swim faster than his customary dual meet times.
Schnur added that McHugh will have to surpass his records in both of his races in order to beat Katis.
“Brendan and Chuck Katis are going to have some great races in both [the 100- and 200-meter] breaststrokes,” Schnur said. “If you don’t break the pool record, you’re not going to win the race this weekend.”
There are a few other swimmers that will either make or break the win for the Red and Blue, including Paul Maneri, who McHugh expects will break the pool record in the 100 butterfly, distance racer Paul Hartmeier and diver Jeff Cragg, who broke the school record this past Saturday in three-meter diving. Harvard still has some of the top swimmers and divers in the country, so the outcome is still unclear and the high level of competition remains.
Another challenge in taking on the Crimson is the fact that they are coming off a big meet and shaved last week.
“We are nowhere near the position they are. They’re coming off tapering, they’re coming off shaving, which means they’ll still be fast,” Schnur said. “Hair on their legs doesn’t grow back that fast, so they’re still going to be pretty good this week.”
Although Penn’s focus remains on Ivy Championships, which take place in three weeks, the team still wants match Harvard stroke-for-stroke. The Quakers even have “a couple of guys shaving and tapering, so they’re going to go as fast as they possibly can,” McHugh said.
In addition to the challenge of the Crimson’s strong distance freestyle, the Quakers will have to step up their game in other areas.
“Their strength is their depth and their backstroke and breaststroke, but hopefully I’ll do something about that,” McHugh said.
The breaststroke portions of the meet and races almost certainly will be faster this time around. On Saturday, McHugh’s role in the medley relay won’t necessarily give them a huge lead as they take on a team with Katis, so each swimmer will have to step up for Penn to win.
Whether or not the Quakers come away victorious in their seniors’ home finale, McHugh guarantees it will be show not worth missing.
“I promise you: I will break both of my pool records.”