One thing’s for sure: Mark Andrew is no stranger to making a splash.
Since Andrew broke out as freshman and smashed the Ivy League record in the 400-yard individual medley, his prowess in the pool has caught a lot of attention. And with the graduation of Penn swimming legend and NCAA champion Chris Swanson, the spotlight on Andrew will only intensify.
Understanding this reality, Andrew has significantly raised both his level of training intensity and his individual expectations for the fast-approaching season.
“I spent the summer here training for Olympic Trials, working all summer to get ready for the season,” Andrew said. “I got a lot of good work in, and I’ll need it because the goal is to compete at the national level, to be one of the top guys in the country.”
Coach Mike Schnur echoes many of his star pupil’s sentiments and constantly motivates him to reach his full potential.
“Now that Chris and Eric [Schultz] are gone, we need someone else to step up and become an All-American,” Schnur said. “Mark Andrew should be one of the guys looking to replace them.”
Obviously Schnur realizes that replacing a swimmer of Swanson’s caliber is no easy task, but he firmly believes that with Andrew, there exists great potential.
“I would never say that anybody could replace Chris Swanson as an NCAA champion, but he even wasn’t at Mark’s level as a sophomore,” Schnur said.
While matching Swanson serves as a lofty long-term goal, Schnur has great immediate expectations for Andrew as well.
“The next step for Mark would be to dominate the 200 IM as well as the 400 IM, but more at the national level,” Schnur said. “The goal would be to utterly obliterate the Ivy League in the 400 IM and make top 16 in NCAAs, pushing towards top eight. In other words, his goal should be to race with the big boys, to be a first team All-American.”
If you thought that expectations such as these would be daunting for Andrew, you’d be wrong. In fact, he expects even more than a top eight finish from himself:
“My individual goal is to reach top four in the NCAAs.”
However, before the NCAA championships comes Ivy League swimming, and this year’s team has high hopes within the conference.
“The goal for the year is to move up,” Schnur said. “Nobody has beaten Harvard or Princeton since 1972. We might have an opportunity to beat them this year.”
The force that will ultimately determine whether the Quakers do in fact topple the Crimson and the Tigers is the leadership of the senior class, a class with huge shoes to fill.
“We’ve got a big senior class. They’ve been great leaders,” Andrew said. “We’ve got four captains that all really step up and lead by example every day.”
One of those captains, Kevin Su, recognizes his team’s vast potential and accepts his responsibility to lead, attributing much of his leadership acumen to last year’s senior class.
“The past three years, training with people like Swanson and Eric Schultz, they’ve taught us everything we know,” Su said. “Now it’s up to us to pass that down and set good examples for the young guys to follow.”
Obviously, among those “young guys,” Andrew stands out. But fellow sophomores Colin McHugh and Thomas Dillinger will be heavily relied upon as well in the effort to bring the Red and Blue an Ivy League title, placing even greater importance on the leadership abilities of Su and his fellow seniors.
Many teams, after the graduation of generational talents such as Chris Swanson, will falter, but the goals for this team have been elevated. Schnur firmly believes that the 2016-17 Penn men’s swimming team has a chance at Ivy League glory, and that, in Mark Andrew, Penn may have found Swanson’s heir apparent.
However, Andrew smartly brushed off that thought.
“I won’t say anything about Swanson until I win a national title.”