While it might be a new season for Penn swimming and diving, the big names haven’t changed that much.
In their first competition of the season, it was the veterans who dominated the meet sheet for Penn at Army’s Crandell Pool on Friday. The women’s team picked up two wins at West Point, with dominant 203-97 and 173.5-126.5 wins over Army and Columbia, while the men split the tri-meet, beating the Black Knights 199-99, but were narrowly edged 152-148 to the Lions.
Despite coming up just short in team points, the men’s team saw plenty of strong performances from its returning swimmers.
Senior Kevin Su narrowly edged Columbia’s Nianguo Liu by .02 seconds to win the 200-yard freestyle in a time of 1:38.61, and junior Hunter Brakovec claimed the winning time in the 200 butterfly.
Sophomore Thomas Dillinger also looked strong in his return to the pool, notching a victory in the 50 free by .04 seconds and claiming a more decisive victory in the very next event, clocking a 44.71 for the top spot in the 100 free.
“We knew that our older guys were going to be the major scores for us tonight, and our young guys are going to take some time to get acclimated to the world of collegiate swimming,” Penn coach Mike Schnur said. “The freshmen got sort of a trial by fire tonight, but I was very impressed with how many of them swam and our veterans had a hell of a night.”
In the 1,000 freestyle, freshman Matthew Haigh made his first mark on the program by winning the event with a final time of 9:39.35, and sophomore Mark Andrew, the defending Ivy League 400 individual medley champ, also looked in good form on Friday with a strong win in the 500 free, finishing with a time of 4:29.88. Andrew also set up the Red and Blue for a final push by winning the last individual event of the day, posting a 3:28.74 in the 200 IM.
However, the 400 free relay team of Su, freshmen Chris Nicholson, senior Zach Fisher and Dillinger came up just short in the meet’s final event, losing to Columbia by just over a tenth of a second.
“Given how many more events than us they won we should have been blown out tonight, but our depth is just so good we were able to hang around the whole time, and we knew it would be close.” Schnur said. “Every event was so tightly contested that it we were biting our nails the whole time, but it was also just one of those meets that’s just fun to watch.”
On the women’s side, Junior Carolyn Yang brought home the first of the individual event victories, leading a Penn sweep of the 1,000 yard free with a time of 10:13.71. Freshman Grace Ferry and sophomore Erin Kiely were close on here heals finishing in 10:19.84 and 10:27.44, respectively.
In one of the more dominant performances of the meet, junior Virginia Burns returned to the pool with a vengeance by winning three individual events. The two-time defending Ivy League 500 free champion posted victories in the 100, 200 and 500 freestyle events, and swam the anchor leg for the winning 400 free relay team.
Senior Rochelle Dong narrowly edged out Army’s Kelly Hamilton by .02 seconds to claim victory in the 100 backstroke, and also led a sweep of the 100 fly, along with freshman Wendy Yang and junior Annie Tran. Tran’s time of 2:05.01 was also good for a top finish in the 200 fly.
Two freshman also notched their first event victories for the Red and Blue, as Wendy Yang took home the top time of 23.58 in the 50 free and Serena Xue touched up first in the 200 yard backstroke with a time of 2:23.29.
“We always expected our returning girls like Burns and Dong and Yang to go out there and score points because that’s who they are; they’re leaders and they are just that good and they score points all the time,” Schnur said. “But it’s just as important to see the freshmen who are contributing this early like Wendy and Serena who have slotted into those roles already.”
With a meet against Villanova next week before an all-important tri-meet with Cornell and Princeton the following week, the wait won’t be long to see how this year’s program stacks up against the best the division has to offer.