The Penn men's swimming team heads up to West Point today for the Eastern Intercollegiate Swimming League championships. And the pressure is on to live up to expectations from what has thus far been an impressive 2000-01 season. The Quakers have come a long way since last year's Easterns, when they finished ninth out of 10 teams, beating only perennially struggling Dartmouth. This season, Penn topped both Columbia and Army, teams that underestimated the Quakers' talent and depth before their meets started. But perhaps Penn's greatest triumph was its victory over Cornell in the Quakers' first dual meet of the season. The Big Red walked out of last year's championships regaling the Penn squad with taunts and jeers. None of the Penn swimmers who were there forgot the incident, making this fall's win particularly poignant. The Red and Blue will face a significant disadvantage this weekend, however, as the depth of talent the squad has depended on all season won't be a factor. "It's a funny meet," Penn coach Mike Schnur said. "It's all about quality and having your best people swim fast." Penn will also be the youngest team at the meet, with only two seniors and three juniors competing. Though having 12 out of 17 underclassman swimmers confers a future advantage in terms of the experience the squad will have gained, the competition from well-schooled upperclassmen at West Point will be a high hurdle to overcome. The Quakers are aware of these challenges, as well as the opportunity they have to set in stone the respect they have gained this season. "Last year I didn't have a good meet and I want to turn that around," Penn sophomore Chris Miller said. Miller, who will be swimming both the 100- and 200-yard breaststroke this weekend, is confident in his ability to live up to his talent. "I plan on doing best times by over two seconds each in both events," Miller said. "I told myself in the beginning of the year that I wasn't going to accept losing anymore. I have worked hard in practice and hopefully it will show." Senior captain Brian Barone is the only member of the Quakers' EISL team who was also there as a freshman three seasons ago. "We got last place my freshman year," Barone said. "It is good to be able to return at the flipside of my college swimming career and go head to head with these teams." Penn junior Russ Zuckerman shares Barone's sentiments. A Wisconsin transfer, he is looking forward to his first EISL championship. "We want to show everybody in the conference that we're for real," Zuckerman said. "A lot of teams can do well throughout the season but it is the end of the year that distinguishes us." Schnur agreed that his swimmers will have to be in top form in order for Penn to mark its presence this weekend. "We're bringing the 17 best on the team and we need everyone to score points," Schnur said. "This meet is gravy for a great dual meet season."Comments powered by Disqus
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