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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Saturday, April 20, 2024

Women’s swimming second at NESCAC Championship

Jumbos register strong finish at Middlebury ahead of NCAA championships.

Chambers-Isa.jpg

Isa Chambers is pictured on Feb. 2.

The Tufts women’s swim and dive team took second place out of 11 teams at the 2024 NESCAC Championship Meet held at Middlebury College, scoring 1,628.5 points over the course of four days, outsourcing all but winner Williams College. The team was led by two first-place finishes from senior Jillian Cudney in the 100-freestyle and sophomore Quinci Wheeler in the 50-breaststroke. Wheeler set a NESCAC record in the 50 breaststroke with a time of 28.47. Several Tufts’ team records were also set in competition.

Reaching 1,628.5 points was truly a team effort from the Jumbos, starting from the first events of the meet. Tufts placed third in the 800-freestyle relay followed by a second-place finish in the 200-freestyle relay. Top relay finishes generate high point values and are critical to overall success; a first-place finish in a relay provides twice the amount of points as a victory in an individual event.

The championship meet format also made scoring points different from typical meets. The meet took place over the course of four days, with preliminary competitions in the morning determining the seeding of final events and subsequent eligibility to score points.

Senior Elise Fong finds that the meet format requires more mental and physical toughness than typical college meets.

“Four days means you have to really stay focused mentally for that period of time,” she said. “By Sunday, you know, we’re entirely broken down, and it’s when your bodies feel that way … [that] your mentality is the only thing that can really push you through.”

In the 50-breaststroke, Wheeler demonstrated her ability to push through that physical barrier. She credits her finish to being focused on the race and her competition rather than focusing on achieving a specific time.

“I had no idea it was a record until a few minutes after the race,” Wheeler wrote in an email to the Daily. “The 50 breast is such a fast paced race that I really didn’t think about anything and just enjoyed racing the people next to me. I had so much fun with that race, and I am so happy with how it turned out.”

The Jumbos had four other swimmers finish in the top ten in the 50-breaststroke: first-years Mia Solomon and Sydney Stasz, junior Abigail Miller and sophomore Avery Newcomer placed fifth, seventh, ninth and 10th, respectively. They were similarly strong in the 100-breaststroke, with Wheeler, Solomon, Newcomer and Stasz finishing third, sixth, seventh and ninth, respectively.

The 50-butterfly saw a strong performance from sophomore Jade Foltenyi with a time of 25.28, good for fourth place. Later on in the 100-butterfly, Foltenyi excelled yet again, swimming 56.19 for fifth place, while first-year Elena Harrison and junior Lara Wujciak placed seventh and eighth, respectively.

Other notable performances in the shorter races include Harrison’s third-place finish in the 50-backstroke with a time of 25.93, a fifth-place finish for Stasz in the 200-individual medley, third place in the 200-freestyle for first-year Selin Tuncay and third and fifth in the 200-backstroke for Fong and sophomore Madison Hagberg.

Tufts’ distance squad, led by sophomore Madeleine Dunn, likewise had a strong meet. Dunn placed fourth in the 500-freestyle with a time of 4:55.92 to meet the NCAA ‘B’ standard. The 1000-freestyle saw more close finishes between Tufts swimmers — Dunn and seniors Sahar Mumtaz and Katie Shelburne were fifth, sixth and seventh, respectively. Dunn recorded a third top-five finish in the 1650-freestyle with a time of 17:09.84.

Finally, in the relays, Harrison, Wheeler, Foltenyi and Cudney combined in the 400-medley relay to take second place with a time of 3:43.87, behind only a Williams team that set a meet record in the event with a time of 3:39.04. The same group also took second place in the 200-medley relay. Both relay times set new Tufts records. Wheeler, sophomore Isa Chambers, Stasz and Cudney combined to finish the meet with the 400-freestyle relay, placing second in 3:24.42.

Cudney also achieved the NCAA ‘B’ cut in the 50-freestyle with a time of 23.41. She credits her success to changes in her race strategy between prelims and finals.

“Having a couple hours to think over how I executed a race in prelims and then perfect it in finals … it's great,” she said. “I just kind of put my head down, put the blinders on.”

The Jumbos are proud of their work but aren’t ready to rest.

“The entire team has worked so hard this season, and this really showed through all of the great swims and amazing dives,” Wheeler wrote. “The team is pleased with the outcome of the meet, but also very excited to build off of our successes and keep improving moving forward.”

Fong cites leadership and investment from Head Coach Adam Hoyt as one reason the team saw such incredible results in the meet.

“Someone I’d want to shout out is … Coach Hoyt,” Fong said. “He cares so much about every swimmer on the team, physically and mentally. And so I don't think we could have done any of this without him.”

Moving forward means NCAA competition for a portion of the team. Many Jumbos met the NCAA ‘B’ standard; these swimmers are potentially eligible for NCAA championships. Cudney said that this exceeded even the team’s own expectations.

“I want to say last year our NCAA roster was 13, and we thought that was awesome,” Cudney said. “I know … us as seniors on the team are super proud of the range and versatility and grit that everyone has shown to be able to make those cuts.”

Swimmers must wait until Wednesday for the official announcement of NCAA entries. Some members of the team have a final opportunity to meet NCAA standards on Sunday in the women’s NESCAC Invitational meet.