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Now-senior swimmer Andrew Dai swims butterfly in a meet against Rider University on Jan. 27, 2023.

Credit: Samantha Turner

Penn men’s swimming and diving finished fourth at the Ivy League Championships, highlighted by championship title from junior breaststroker Matt Fallon 

After a less than ideal championships last year, the Warren, N.J. native headlined an exciting performance from the Red and Blue at this past Ivy League Championships in Cambridge, M.A. The team left Harvard with a fourth place team finish along with new meet and pool records. 

On day two of the meet, Fallon kicked off his individual event lineup with a race he is not well known for — the 500-yard freestyle. Last year, partially due to injury, the U.S. national team member swam to a solid tenth place in the event, but this year, he improved to a fourth, behind teammate sophomore backstroker James Curreri in third. 

Curreri’s bronze medal finish was pleasant surprise in this event. The Kinnelon, N.J. native has historically swam backstroke and sprint freestyle events at dual meets and didn’t even swim the 500 free at last year’s Ivy championships. However, at the mid-season Big Al invitational meet in December, Curreri broke onto the distance free scene with a personal best time and seventh place finish. Since then, Curreri has been building his distance free in practice, which has clearly paid off. 

“We put a lot more of a priority on [Curreri’s freestyle] starting in December. When we went to [the Big Al] invite, in early December, his 500 free was pretty good. [...] On our training trip, he was doing more freestyle. He's been developing that middle to distance freestyle all the time now and becoming a great freestyler.” Coach Schnur said. 

Another pleasant surprise was senior butterfly/breaststroke/individual medley specialist Ben Feldman’s runner-up finish in the 50-yard freestyle. Feldman has historically swam sprint freestyle and the 100-yard butterfly at the Ivys and has improved his finishes from year to year. The Stamford, C.T. native finished 10th in the 50 free in 2022 and improved to 9th last year. 

However, he has consistently fallen short of breaking into the A-final in this event. This year, Feldman stuck into the A-final — finishing 8th by 0.01 seconds during prelims. In the evening, from lane eight, Feldman brought the outside smoke and stunned by out touching young Bulldog talent by 0.01 to finish second with a career personal best time of 19.71. Feldman ends his swimming career on a high note, collecting second team All-Ivy honors for this performance and Academic All-Ivy honors. 

“My greatest strength is having a clear [and focused] mindset [before my race], and knowing this is my last race and being able to put it all out was great [...] I was confident in that I would do better than eighth [in the evening] since I’m a better finals swimmer. I was definitely surprised when I got second especially since lane eight was definitely slowest because you get all the waves.” Feldman said. 

The third day of the meet brought in more medals for the team from Curreri and Fallon. In the 1000-yard freestyle, Curreri went sub-9 minutes for the first time to take home a bronze medal. 

“Until our Harvard dual meet [in January], [Curreri] never swam 1000. He's adapted to it really quickly. He's now the fastest returning guy in the league next year in 1000 since the two who beat him are seniors. [...] He has a lot of ability in those events, and it's going to be pretty cool to see how he develops next year.” Coach Schnur said. 

Although the 100-yard breast is his weaker breast event, Fallon still impressed and finished just 0.05 seconds behind veteran Bear talent for second place. Senior individual medley specialist Kevin Keil also took home some hardware, finishing fifth in the 400-yard individual medley. 

On the last day of Ivies, it was finally time for Fallon’s magnum opus: the 200-yard breaststroke. And he did not disappoint. 

In prelims, Fallon rebroke his Ivies meet record and the Blodgett Pool record in a time of 1:50.27, making him the first seed going into finals. His first 100-yard split of 53.08 was the fastest he’s ever taken the race out, showcasing his recent front-half speed work. The 2022 NCAA bronze medalist is notorious for his well-developed back-half technique. In the evening, although Fallon was behind at the 100, he quickly and unsurprisingly took off during the third 50. Creating a body length lead during the last 50 yards, Fallon touched the wall in a time of 1:49.75 and finished first by nearly two seconds. He easily rebroke the meet and pool records he had set in prelims, and he defended his conference title from 2022. 

“[After the 200 breast], we were talking about his heart rate. [...] After all of his swims, we take his heart rate to see how hard he worked and to see how much more improvement he has. And his heart rate, within about two minutes of finishing, was very low. So, we knew it wasn't an outrageously difficult race for him and one that he can get faster at. [...] We're laughing about about how easy it seemed for him." said Coach Schnur. 

His final time is the fastest and only sub-1:50 in the NCAA so far this season, setting him up well for his return to NCAA Championships after missing last year’s due to a back injury. But, of course, the 2023 Worlds medalist is not only looking for his first NCAA title but also reaching for goals beyond NCAAs towards Olympic trials in June.

The 200 breast was a win not only for Fallon individually but also for the team as a whole. The event was a big points grab for Quakers with Fallon at the top and freshman Peter Whittington and senior breaststroker and captain Jason Schreiber rounding out the A-final in seventh and eighth respectively. 

On the final day, Curreri also continued to impress. In the 200-yard backstroke, he swam to a time of 1:44:24 for NCAA B-cut and fifth place, improving his ninth place finish from last year. Junior backstroke/individual medley specialist Daniel Gallagher also appeared in the A-final finishing seventh.  

At the end of the meet, the depth of Quakers in many different events led to a fourth place overall— a improved performance from last year’s sixth place team finish. Harvard claimed its seventh straight Ivy League championship with Princeton and Yale rounding out the top three. However, the season is not done yet. 

At the end of the month, the spotlight will return on Fallon as he makes his highly-anticipated return to NCAA Championships in Indianapolis, I.N. as the favorite to win the 200 breast. Then, in April, Fallon and possibly some company will head to the TYR Pro Swim Series for some long course swimming to prepare and chase some international team dreams in this Olympic year.