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Junior Virginia Burns took home a pair of Ivy titles for Penn women's swimming & diving

Credit: Zach Sheldon , Zach Sheldon

So close.

Penn women’s swimming and diving was just inches away from getting its best finish ever at the Ivy League Championships last weekend, but ultimately finished fourth with 962 points. The Quakers fell to Yale (1681 points), Harvard (1590.5 points) and Princeton (1024) while placing in front of four other schools.

The final score does not truly tell the tale of the weekend for the Red and Blue (8-3, 4-3 Ivy). In the second event of the entire four-day championship, the Quakers 800-yard freestyle relay team was disqualified, leaving them in dead last after the first day.

Over the next two days, Penn put together quite a showing, storming back to just seven points behind Princeton for third place heading into the final day. The Quakers overtook Princeton on Saturday, and with just four events remaining they held a 33-point lead over the Tigers. But Princeton’s diving gave them enough points to come back and retake third place.

Despite this, coach Mike Schnur was very impressed with his team’s showing.

“I was really proud of the women. I mean we came off the first night where we disqualified a relay, for the first time ever, and walk in the door the next morning in dead last place. It can be a little unnerving to look at the score and see you’re in last after the first day, and the girls never gave up. They just kept battling every event,” he said.

The highlight of the weekend was the performance of junior Virginia Burns. The Brockton, Mass. native took home two Ivy titles in the 500-yd and 200-yd freestyles, setting new pool records in each while qualifying for the NCAA ‘B’ Cut. Her time in the 200-yd freestyle, 1:45.51, was also good enough to set a program record.

Additionally, Burns joined elite company, as she became the fifth-ever three-time Ivy champion in the 500-yd freestyle.

“Burns never ceases to amaze me. She figures out her race strategy in advance and always does what we talk about,” Schnur said.

But Burns wasn’t the only one who wrote her name in the record books. Senior Ellie Grimes broke not one, not two, but three separate program records, all of which she had set earlier in her career. In her final Ivy League Championship, Grimes set new bests in the 400-yd (4:16.14) and 200-yd (2:01.83) individual medleys as well as the 200-yd breaststroke (2:15.35).

“For someone like Ellie, it’s every coach’s dream to have a senior to finish with her greatest meet ever, and that’s just an amazing thing,” Schnur said.

With the Ancient Eight championships out of the way, the Quakers have just have ECAC Championships on March 3-5 before their season is complete.

As for the men’s swimming and diving team (8-3, 4-3 Ivy), they return to competition with the Ivy League Championship this weekend after nearly a month out of the pool. While the Red and Blue had performed well in their last few meets and that momentum could have carried that, the team has had their eyes on the prize this entire season.

“Our entire season was about what we do this week. Nothing else matters,” Schnur said.

The Quakers are certainly set to compete this weekend. With a deep roster headed by seniors Kevin Su and Michael Wen, Penn will look to at least repeat, if not beat last year’s third-place Ivy finish.

They’ve been preparing for it all year, and in just a few days they’ll be able to dive in headfirst.