The onlookers watched, aghast and confused: A man threw his young child, Mark, into the pool. To the relief of those onlookers, he was able to safely paddle his way to the side. Both of the child’s parents were collegiate swimmers — the sport is in his blood.
Now more than a decade later, Penn's Mark Andrew is shattering school and Ivy League records — and he’s still only a junior. His trademark event, the individual medley, is where he has seen his greatest success, constantly writing and rewriting the 200- and 400-yard records.
In 2016, at the Ivy League Championships, Andrew set both a school and conference record in a first-place effort in the 400 individual medley, finishing with a time of 3:43.53. In 2017, he lowered that record down to 3:43.28, and defended his Ivy League crown. This performance allowed him to qualify for NCAA Championships, where he would set the record again for the Quakers and the Ivy League, this time by more than a second as he swam a 3:41.89.
In the 200 individual medley, Andrew has been just as prolific. He placed third in 2016 at the Ivy League Championships, where he set the school record with a time of 2:53.10. He improved in 2017, and not only lowered the program record, but also became the first Penn swimmer in history to win the 200 individual medley at the conference championships. His historic 2017 season earned him All-American honors.
His thoughts on it all? Surely someone with his talent might revel in these records, right?
“The records are fun to get, but they’re not something that I think about every day when I’m swimming,” he said. “When I’m practicing, I just want to be the best that I can be. So, if a record comes with that, that’s great.”
Mark Andrew is much more than the guy who sets records — he’s a true, through and through leader for the men’s swim team.
“[Mark] sets the tone for the guys to do the right things in the pool, in the weight room, and in how they race,” coach Mike Schnur said. “Mark leads by example, and he’s a lot more than how fast he is.”
Despite the unprecedented success that Mark Andrew has had in the individual medley, coach Schnur remarked that he is most impressed by Andrew’s ability to achieve highly in not only the pool, but in the classroom, where Andrew is one of approximately 30 tutors serving in Penn's Scholar-Athlete Academic Achievement Program.
“Someone like Mark could be a pure athlete and not care about school, but he’s the exact opposite … I’ve coached a lot of guys over the years who had to give so much to their school that their swimming suffered,” he stated. “Mark hasn’t had to worry about that … He’s the true student-athlete.”
You might know Mark Andrew as the swimmer who breaks records like it’s nobody’s business, but there’s also Mark Andrew the leader and Mark Andrew the academic.
So, where’s the ceiling?
“I don’t know,” said coach Schnur. “One thing that I’ve learned in our program is that with him, there are no limits.”