Every so often, there comes a generational talent. A person that can redefine a program. For Penn men's swimming, that person was Mark Andrew.
Andrew's graduation last May left a large gap for the Quakers and meant the loss of a captain. In his time with the Quakers, Andrew broke countless program and Ivy League records and was named a first team All-American his senior season.
“You can’t replace Mr. [Mark] Andrew, Mr. [Thomas] Dillinger or Mr. [Mark] Blinstrub. They are three of the best we have ever had,” coach Mike Schnur said of the recently departed seniors. “We just try to incorporate the younger guys and teach them how to work out, how to train, and how to do things our way. It is impossible to replace those three guys.”
“I guess the biggest thing that we miss is what [Andrew] brings to the table for our team,” junior Sean Lee agreed. “Obviously, him leaving is a huge loss, but we are going to have to find ways to move forward without him. The freshman class this year has been doing a great job, so it is looking great for the future.”
After the Red and Blue graduated a large class last year, the current smaller group of seniors, along with the larger group of 10 new freshmen, will force the team to rely more on newcomers.
“This year we have a senior class of three people, which is very small compared to what we normally have,” junior Boris Yang said. “We are definitely a very young team. Our team is smaller than last season, but potential-wise the team atmosphere is much better than last year.”
Schnur is extremely proud of how three rookie swimmers in particular have stepped up.
“Mark McCrary has had to replace Blinstrub, and his swim last Saturday against Brown was just as good as Blinstrub,” Schnur said. “Matt Bonell is coming in as a freshman [and] winning all of his races. So they're doing a great job. Jason Schreiber is already stepping in as one of our breaststrokers. … He isn't Mark Andrew yet, but he's finishing in the same place as Mark did.”
Lee has taken it upon himself to step up in new ways after Andrew’s departure, not just in the pool swimming, but also as a leader outside of the water.
“I try to lead by example. I take what I learned from the upperclassmen last year and the year before to give to the freshmen now,” said Lee. “[I try to do that by] mainly being a great leader in the best way possible and trying to set them up for success.”
Schnur knows that in order to be successful this season, he needs to rely upon older team members like Lee and Yang to lead.
“I think that Sean will step up this year. Boris Yang is a great breaststroker. The only guy that beat his last year was Mark,” Schnur said. “With Mark gone, we expect Boris to be an Ivy champion. We expect our distance guys — [senior] Matt Haigh [and sophomores] CJ Hinckley, Will Kamps, and Jacob Furlong — to step up and replace what we lost. It's not going to be easy.”
While Andrew will be dearly missed by Penn men's swimming, the cycle is continuing with this year's freshmen, who are picking up right where he left off.