Until November rolls around, there will be no more meets or tournaments for the Penn women's swimming team -- the 1999-2000 season is in the books. Posterity will remember that the Quakers went 6-6 overall, with a 2-5 Ivy League record and a dead last eighth-place finish at the Ivy Championships. But make no mistake -- to a program that had long been wallowing in the deep end of Sheerr Pool, this season was a life buoy thrown just in time. Penn coach Mike Schnur knows which moment to point to as the one in which that buoy hit the water -- it is the one by which he will always remember the season. On November 20, the Quakers did something they had not done in 42 tries and nearly seven years -- they won an Ivy League meet, edging Cornell in their season opener by a score of 153-145. "The best moment was the 15 seconds right after we won the 400 medley relay against Cornell," Schnur said, referring to the meet's clinching event. "The reaction of the women, I think, is the epitome of the whole season. Just seeing them on the side so happy to win the meet was something I'll never forget." While it was only one win, the victory over the Big Red established that the Quakers' 1999-2000 record would be better than those in the putrid, winless Ivy seasons that were the norm for most of the 1990s. Penn knew that its season would be different than previous ones long before its demons were laid to rest. In September, longtime coach Kathy Lawlor-Gilbert shocked her team and the rest of the Penn athletic community when she announced her retirement and left the reins of the program in the hands of Schnur, one of her assistant coaches since the beginning of the 1992-93 season. Schnur, officially the interim head coach, put the team through an extremely rigorous training schedule, the peak of which was achieved over winter break. The expressed purpose of this intensive regimen was to prepare Penn to face Dartmouth, which was considered to be the Quakers' only other realistically beatable Ivy foe. Penn's preparation paid off. After falling behind by nearly 45 points, the Red and Blue rallied at Dartmouth to claim their second -- and final -- Ivy win of the season on January 29. Penn's penchant for making comebacks was but one of the positive things Schnur noticed in his team this season. "We improved a lot," he said. "We improved the work ethic of the team, I think we're in a lot better shape physically than we were last year. I think the women's team trained a lot harder than they did last year, and I think our talent level is better. The freshman class adds a lot to the team." The freshman class included Jessica Anders, who made it to the 50 freestyle finals last Thursday at the Ivy Championships -- the first Quaker to do so since 1997 -- and Kate Patrizzi, who quickly became one of the most valuable swimmers in Penn's arsenal alongside junior captain Cathy Holland. Schnur foresees an influx of similarly talented freshman classes in years to come, and he pointed out that five of his 10 early decision recruits swim regular times in certain events that are faster than current school records in those events. He also added that distance swimming and diving -- two areas in which Penn is weak -- would be future recruiting priorities. Although Schnur's position is precarious -- he is still interim head coach and the search for a permanent head coach will heat up now that the season has concluded -- he is excited about next year, especially since Columbia will be particularly weakened due to the loss of Olympian Christina Teuscher to graduation. "With a few breaks here and there, a few more recruits come, I think we're at the level where our goal for [next] year should be to focus on not just [beating] Dartmouth and Cornell, but to also add Columbia and possibly even Yale to that mix," Schnur said. "I can't wait."Comments powered by Disqus
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