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Penn women's swimming senior Virginia Burns will look to win the 500-yard free for the fourth time at the upcoming Ivy League championships.

Credit: Julio Sosa

Normally water is the best way to stop a fire, but this weekend, the Ivy League’s best swimmers will not be safe from Burns while in the pool.

Virginia Burns, that is. Penn’s star senior has been a force to be reckoned with at the Ivy League championships for three straight years now. She has won the 500-yard freestyle in all three years of her collegiate career, and broke the pool record at Brown in the 200 free on her way to victory as a junior.  

With just one go-around left, Burns is not planning on slowing down.

“Personally it would be great to see a four-peat,” Burns said of her pursuit of another 500 free title. “On top of that, I want to make NCAAs.”

These goals might seem lofty, but with the season Burns has had, there is no reason to think she cannot accomplish them. Burns has had the team’s best times in three of the four events she competes in, the 100, 200, and 500 frees. 

Burns' team-best times are not only a testament to her skills, but also to her drive to succeed in her final year.  

“The big goal for my whole class this year was to go out with a bang,” she explained. “I would love to see us have the highest finish in the league that we have ever had.”

In order for Burns to help her team meet that goal, she will likely have to beat out Mikaela Dahlke, Harvard’s best swimmer in the 200 free. Dahlke qualified for nationals as a freshman last year and had an outstanding overall season that included a victory in the 100 free in a meet against Penn.  Burns got the last laugh though, beating Dahlke by three tenths of a second to win the 200 free at the Ivy League Championships.  

“I only won it in the last 30 yards or so,” said Burns of the photo-finish.  “I know my competitor Miki Dahlke is really strong and a great competitor — she got to go to nationals last year but was not happy that I out-touched her in the 200, and she is going to be coming for me this year.”

Despite the rivalry, there are no hard feelings between the two. Burns noted that Dahlke is really nice, and she is looking forward to facing her again. 

After the Ivy League Championships, Burns will either have one meet left in her collegiate career, if she qualifies for nationals, or none. Though still unsure of what she will do upon graduation, Burns knows she would like to be in D.C. working for some type of social impact organization.  Swimming will no longer be part of her everyday life, but she will still carry with her the lessons she learned as a member of Penn swimming, and the person she credits the most for that is coach Mike Schnur.

“I adore Mike; I can’t put into words what his leadership has meant to me over the last four years,” explained Burns.  “I know that I would not be the athlete I am without him, but more importantly I would not be the person I am without him.”

Four years of hard work have led up to this moment, and now it is time for Burns to end her career with the bang she and her fellow seniors have been looking forward to since the start of the season.