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Women’s Swimming and Diving | Swimmers compete in last meet before championships

Published: Thursday, February 6, 2014

Updated: Thursday, February 6, 2014 09:02

In the final event before the NESCAC championships, the women’s swimming and diving team headed to the Middlebury College Invitational this past weekend, competing against teams that included NESCAC rivals Amherst, Williams and Middlebury.

Although the meet was a non-scoring event and intended to be a tune-up for the upcoming championships, several Jumbos performed well Friday and Saturday, dropping time off of their career bests — signaling that the team could be picking up momentum as it closes out its season. 

This weekend also marks the last meet of the season for 14 members of the team, including four seniors, who will not compete in the championships.

“This was the last meet that we all swam together before NESCACs, so the energy was high and I think that’s going to carry the team into NESCACs as well,” sophomore Katharine Pong said.

Pong was one of Tufts’ top performers at the meet, swimming in seven events, and placing fourth in the 200 breaststroke, where her time of 2:33.60 was nearly five seconds faster than her previous best.

Senior Jenny Hu had the highest finish of any Jumbo in an individual event, taking third in the 100 breaststroke. Her time of 1:09.27, though just 0.46 seconds out of first place, was two seconds slower than her career best and the slowest time she has swam in the event this season. 

“I wasn’t happy with any of the times I swam,” Hu said. “I swam the slowest I have all season but I also wasn’t too bothered by it because I was focused on supporting my teammates who were ending their seasons at this meet.”

Hu’s disappointing performance, however, which included faltering in the 100 breast, the event for which she is the defending NESCAC champion, might be attributed to the difficulties faced with competing at the away meet.

“Given the circumstances, I wasn’t expecting to swim any season bests times—the swimmers who weren’t ending their seasons at this meet had woken up at 4:30 a.m. to get to the meet, and we had no opportunity to warm up for the first session,” Hu said.

Hu was also part of the 200-medley relay team — which consisted of sophomore Kelsey McEvoy, Hu, freshman Cassidy Hubert and junior Samantha Sliwinski — that took fourth place, the highest finish of any Jumbo relay team of the day. 

It was in the breaststroke events, though, where Tufts found the most success. Sophomore Laura Cui finished fifth in the 100 breaststroke, two spots behind teammate Hu, while senior tri-captain Laura Burns finished fifth in the 200 breast, one spot behind Pong, dropping more than six seconds off her previous best time in the event.

In another successful race, Sliwinski took fifth place in the 100 freestyle with a time of 55.20, closely followed by freshman teammate Sophia Lin, who was 0.2 seconds behind her.

Now, with the NESCAC Championships less than two weeks away, the Jumbos are bearing down.

“We have put in all the fitness work necessary but we have a lot to improve on in terms of the technical aspects of racing such as starts, turns and breathing pattern,” Hu said. “These things can mean the difference between winning an event and coming in fifth or sixth.”  

As the team focuses on tuning up its racing, it continues to work through the Hamilton Pool closure which has affected them from earlier in the semester. Still, many of the swimmers said they believe they will find success at the championships despite the obstacles.

“Everyone on this team has been working so incredibly hard in difficult circumstances, given that Hamilton [Pool] is out of commission, and I think that our spirit and positivity are really going to help us succeed,” Pong said. “We just have to stay positive, energized and healthy in the upcoming weeks.”

The Jumbos have had an underwhelming 2013-2014 season, with their first and only win coming last week against Wheaton. This does not necessarily bode poorly for the team, though, as last season they won only three meets during the season but came in third at the championships. 

“In season, times and standings don’t predict how successful we can be at the [championship] meet, and our team has always done exceptionally well,” Hu said. “TUSD will definitely be a force to be reckoned with.”

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