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As the last man alive for Penn men's swimming, sophomore Mark Andrew will certainly be all smiles this weekend if he can crack the podium in the 400-IM at the NCAA Championships.

Credit: Ananya Chandra

As a swimmer who specializes in one of the most notorious events in the sport, Penn sophomore Mark Andrew began his collegiate career last winter with great expectations for himself and a determination to reach his lofty goals.

This spring — over a year later — he has the chance to set the bar even higher in the NCAA Championship 400-meter individual medley.

“I spent the summer here training for Olympic Trials, working all summer to get ready for the season,” Andrew told the Daily Pennsylvanian back in November. “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.”

Andrew’s goal is not only within sight, but the opportunity to swim towards it is within hours. Friday morning, Andrew will begin competition in the NCAA Division I Championship meet held at the Indiana University Natatorium in Indianapolis.

Andrew will start off the championship meet with preliminary races for the 400 IM — a torturous combination of butterfly, back, breast and freestyle strokes — against 27 opponents from around the country. His seasonal best time of 3:43.28 places him as the 18th seed.

“My individual goal is to reach top four in the NCAAs,” Andrew said.

If his performance in the Ivy League Championships is any indication of what we can expect from him this weekend, it wouldn’t be outlandish to assume that this goal is well within his reach.

This past season, Andrew became a two-time Ivy League champion in both the 200 and 400-meter IM, an impressive performance consistent with his rate of improvement so far at Penn.

“His goal should be to race with the big boys, to be a first team All-American,” coach Mike Schnur said of Andrew’s promising potential.

As the sole Penn representative at the NCAA championship, Andrew will take to the pool with both the support and pressure of a hopeful team behind him, opening the floodgates to a thrilling career only just beginning.

If his placements and times over the next two days are good enough, we will see him advance to the final heats Saturday. There, he’ll be “racing with the big boys,” making his coach and teammates proud.

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