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Through the first three meets of the year against Columbia, UMBC and Villanova, sophomore freestyler Virginia Burns has yet to lose a race, a streak she hopes to continue against the Tigers and Big Red.

Credit: Julio Sosa , Julio Sosa

Not everyone is taking No-Shave November to heart this year.

When Penn swimming heads to New Jersey for its first Ivy tri-meet with Cornell and Princeton this weekend, a hot topic will be the presence (or absence) of hair on Big Red swimmers’ legs.

“Cornell is rumored to be suiting up and resting, which is going to make it tough on us,” sophomore Virginia Burns said. “It’s kind of annoying when they do that, but we’re going to try to race them anyway.”

In swimming, “suiting up” in fastskins and resting is usually reserved for championship meets and is not a typical pre-meet ritual. For the past two years, the Cornell women have not taken this Ancient Eight rendezvous lightly, wearing suits and defeating Penn on both occasions.

The Quakers and coach Mike Schnur are anticipating that the Big Red will be tapering up in Ithaca, N.Y., this week, holding light practices and shaving their bodies to eliminate excess skin and hair to reduce drag.

These unconventional midseason tactics will lead up to the tri-meet on Saturday, in which Cornell is also expected to come out in fastskins, specialized swimming suits that compress the body to make it more hydrodynamic.

“They seem to have this pattern where they take our meet, with us and Princeton, the way we would attack the Ivy Championship,” Schnur said. “I don’t know why they do it. It certainly doesn’t help them at the end of the year, but it helps them in the short term.”

In contrast, after last week’s drubbings of Columbia and Villanova, the Red and Blue showed no signs of slowing down.

“Momentum Saturday to Saturday doesn’t really exist,” Schnur said. “What momentum you get from Saturday meets is Monday and Tuesday workouts, and we’ve had great workouts this week.”

The way Burns sees it, if Cornell suits up, the playing field tilts in their favor. “It’s tough going up against that when we’re going to be really, really tired on Saturday after a full week of swimming and weights.” Burns said.

“[But] we’re not going to rest or anything going into Princeton or Cornell. We’re just going to keep hitting it hard and hope for the best.”

While the team will certainly be looking to perform well come Saturday, it is not willing to sacrifice a week’s worth of practice or a week’s potential for improvement. Schnur has made sure his team keeps a keen eye towards Ivy Championships despite being three months away.

“Shaving in November is something that we would never do,” Schnur said. “It’s not something that we’re interested in. We’re much more interested in going to NCAA’s, going to Olympic Trials, doing well at Ivies.”

“We’ll try to go as fast as we can, but our goal is to go fast in February,” Burns added. “So if we can go fast between now and then, that’s great, but if not, then we’ll manage.”

Even without the Big Red and their hairless legs, the Penn men have more than enough on their plates with Princeton, who has won all but one of the last six Ivy Championships. The Quakers’ last win over the Tigers came in 1989, the year after Schnur graduated from Penn.

“We are looking forward to racing the Princeton men,” Schnur said. “The Princeton men are the gold standard of our league, and we feel like we have a very good opportunity to compete with them.”

So even in the face of Cornell’s shenanigans and Princeton’s mighty legacy, Schnur and his team will stand firm, ready to lose the battle so long as the war rages on.

Like Burns says, the team is in it for the long haul, and the campaign is just getting started. “We’ll destroy them at the end of the year so if they want to destroy us now that’s fine.”

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