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Freshman Catherine Buroker placed first in the 1000- and 1650-yard freestyle at this weekend's Ivy League Championships.

Credit: Son Nguyen

The Quakers may have placed fifth in the Ivy League Swimming and Diving Championships, but they do have reason to celebrate.

After four days of competition, Penn finished with 865.5 points, behind Brown (937.5), Princeton (1177), Yale (1390.5), and Harvard, who claimed their fourth title in six years with an even 1500 points. However, the Quakers showed growth by winning two individual titles and breaking multiple records at DeNunzio Pool.

The Red and Blue (3-7, 1-6 Ivy) started off on the right foot on Thursday, when junior Wendy Yand , along with freshmen Hannah Kannan, Rachel Maizes, and Monika Burzynska,  finished third in the 200-yard medley relay and set a new program record, with a time of 1:40.27. The result was also enough to secure fourth place for Penn after the first day of competition.

Despite not winning any events on Friday, the Quakers continued to show improvement. Maizes raced to a personal best in the 200-yard IM (2:02.21), which qualified her for the B final. In the 500 free, junior Kaitlin Stearns also set a new career record with a time of 4:51.64. Nonetheless, it was freshman Catherine Buroker who impressed the most: After adding a personal best finish in the morning prelim, she managed to finish second in the event and break her own record by more than four seconds (4:44.30).

On day three, the freshman class had great success. Buroker took home her first Ivy title in the 1000-yard freestyle, while also setting a new program record, with a time of 9:40.04. Burzynska and Maizes also broke Penn’s records, with both finishing in fourth place in the 100 fly (53.49) and in the 100 breast (1:01.76), respectively.

"There were nine freshmen [in the Ivy Championships], and we'd lost some dual meets earlier this season, so I guess many people overlooked Penn," Buroker said. "It was a great opportunity to show how talented this team is and how we've grown."

While the finals standings already seemed defined entering the last day of competition, the Red and Blue were yet able to post another their second individual victory. Once again, Buroker had herself a night and went 16:11.06 in the 1650-yard freestyle, more than 14 seconds ahead of the runner-up, Harvard’s Marcella Ruppert-Gomez. With this time, Buroker also holds the all-time school record. 

"It was great to see Buroker winning her two events. We're going to be following the Pac-12 Championship meet next week to see if she qualifies for NCAAs, but it looks like she has a good chance to do it, and she'd be only the second female in program history to go to NCAAs," coach Mike Schnur said.

Two more Quakers had top-three finishes in the prelims, with freshmen Tara Larusso advancing in second in the 200 back and sophomore Anderson Myers posting the third-fastest time in the 200 fly. However, they were not able to repeat the performance in the finals, finishing sixth and eighth respectively.

The Red and Blue faced some tough competition, with Harvard, Yale, and Princeton continuing to be dominant in the Championship. Yet, Penn managed to finish ahead of Cornell and Columbia, to whom they had lost earlier in the season. Furthermore, after graduating four-time Ivy champion Virginia Burns and having a year of ups and downs, Penn’s performance was still a success, especially for the younger Quakers, who proved that the future of the program is in good hands.

"More than 60 percent of the points that we scored came from freshmen, and that's really important for the future, as we add more talent with athletes from next year's class," Schnur said. "We still have some issues that we didn't have last year. We need to get better at diving, but to see the girls step up, do their best times and break school records was really exciting. Overall, we had a great weekend."

After a satisfactory result in Princeton, N.J., the Red and Blue hope to cap off the season on a high note in the Eastern College Athletic Conference Championship next weekend. 

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