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Mark Andrew, one of six members of Penn men's swimming headed to NCAAs, will take part in three individual events on the weekend in addition to the 400-yard freestyle relay.

Credit: Alex Fisher

It’s championship season, and while most eyes are on the spring sports, the Red and Blue have a chance to make the podium nationally in the pool. Well, six Penn swimmers do, at least.

A contingent of six men have travelled down to Atlanta, Ga., to represent the Quakers in the Division I NCAA Men’s Swimming and Diving Championships. This group is led by senior Chris Swanson, whose last appearance in a Red and Blue cap will mark the end of an era for the swimming program.

Swanson will be competing in the 1,650-yard freestyle — in which he is seeded fifth in the nation — as well as the 500 free on Thursday. With any luck, the nine-time Ivy League champion will cement his legendary status in the history books for the swimming program he helped lift to success.

“He’s certainly the best swimmer in Penn history,” swim coach Mike Schnur said. “No one is even close.”

Swanson will look to go out on a high note in what could possibly be the penultimate meet of his career. The soon-to-be alumnus is planning on hanging up his cap and goggles after the Olympic Trials this summer, should he fail to make the cut for Rio.

Another senior looking to end his collegiate career with his head held high is Eric Schultz. The sprinter is competing today in the 50 and the 200 free tomorrow. He is currently seeded 39th and 35th, respectively, but hoping to break into a more elite position. Schultz is also racing in the 100 free later this week, in which his seeding is a more favorable 23rd.

The next Quaker to be swimming solo at nationals is Alex Peterson. Peterson will join Swanson in the 500 free, after turning in a personal best time at the Ivy League Championships to qualify for nationals with three seconds to spare. For the sophomore, this meet in Atlanta will help him gain a lot of experience competing against the best in preparation for years to come, when he could attempt to break into the top dozen or two of distance swimmers nationwide.

The final swimmer from Penn to be performing individually is freshman sensation Mark Andrew. Andrew crashed the scene in the 400 individual medley competition and dominated the event at the Ivy League Championships. He finished that race with a time of 4:43.53, which broke the Penn and Ivy League record. That time was good enough to get him seeded 17th in the nation, although he is within a second of the top 10.

Andrew will also get to show off his talent when he swims in the 200 IM and the 100 free events. However, he, along with his three other individual competitors from Penn, must first advance through prelims to get a shot at an All-American finish.

Along with the four individual racers, Penn has also sent a delegation for the 400 free relay. Andrew and Schultz will compete along with junior Kevin Su and freshman Thomas Dillinger. The relay team is seeded 19th in the highly-competitive field, but lies within three seconds of a podium place. The culmination of Penn’s team effort at nationals should turn out to be a thrilling race.

Win, come close or come last altogether, though, and the Penn swimming program can be happy with the result — the six delegates it sent down to Georgia form the biggest group the school has sent to nationals since 1971. And likewise, having sent the most of any Ancient Eight program, the Quakers can hold that over Harvard and Princeton — at least for a year.

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