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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Monday, May 27, 2024

Men’s swim and dive team second at NESCAC Championships, Tufts divers succeed in regional competition

Tufts swim and dive continues its run of successful performances.

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Ethan Schreier is pictured in the Feb. 2 meet against Hamilton.

Six Tufts divers competed in the NCAA Diving Regional competition held at Colby College this past weekend. Tufts boasted strong individual performances from divers, while first-year Jay Wilkinson, junior Cameron Yuen and sophomore Malia Leung qualified for the NCAA Division III National Championships.

From Feb. 22–25, the men’s swim and dive team competed in the NESCAC Championships, finishing in second place out of eleven teams, behind only Williams College. In addition to finishing with five conference champions in the meet, the team broke several school records and team members produced over 30 NCAA “B” time standards, contributing to a dominant performance from the Jumbos.

In addition to success at the regional competition, the men’s dive team also added key points at the NESCAC Championship, led by Wilkinson, who won both the one-meter and three-meter dive events. Wilkinson’s score of 505.65 in the one-meter was nearly 50 points ahead of the second-place competitor. Wilkinson scored 525.70 points in the three-meter final to meet the NCAA “B” cut for national competition. First-year Elias Brandt also provided consistently strong scores, finishing second overall in the one-meter and sixth overall in the three-meter competition. 

The swim team’s hard work through the four-day event was on full display in the last event of the meet, the men’s 400-yard freestyle relay. Graduate student Peter LaBarge, junior Soeren Euvrard, senior Will Stearns and sophomore Armaan Sikka combined for a time of 2:56.43. This delivered not just a victory and school record for Tufts, but also set a conference and championship meet record.

Many members of this relay also contributed to Tufts’ depth in butterfly events. Sikka won the 100 butterfly in 47.84, followed closely by teammate Euvrard with a time of 48.15 for third place. Stearns and junior Ethan Schreier were fifth and sixth place respectively. In the 50 fly, Sikka set a new school record by going 21.89, finishing fifth with Euvrard in seventh. Schreier led the Jumbos in the 200 butterfly, finishing second with a time of 1:47.94.

Sikka felt motivated by the energy of the meet but attributes his success to work during the season.

“This year I have changed the way I train and go about my races and the work seems to be paying off in a big way,” Sikka wrote in an email to the Daily. “The energy was electric, the cheering was deafening. … I’m going to be chasing that feeling for the next meet.”

Sprint freestyle saw the return of many familiar Jumbos in top positions again; LaBarge led a deep squad from Tufts. LaBarge and Stearns were third and fourth in the 50 freestyle with both meeting the NCAA cut. In the 100 freestyle, LaBarge swam 44.35 to take third place; Euvrard was in fourth with 44.50. Both LaBarge and Euvrard made the NCAA “B” standard. Sikka’s 44.97 netted him sixth place and was also good for the standard.

Tufts had a strong day in backstroke with junior Eric Lundgren as a consistent leader. Lundgren won the 200 backstroke; his time of 1:45.05 established a new pool record and met the NCAA “B” standard. Sophomore teammate Jack Madden finished fifth and also made the “B” cut.  In the 50 backstroke, Lundgren was third with a time of 22.54 for third place. Tufts first-year Oliver Grossman and Madden battled it out for sixth place and seventh place with Grossman finishing just 0.02 seconds ahead of Madden. Lundgren and Madden were second and third in the 100 backstroke, both achieving NCAA “B” standards.

First-year Rafae Shafi led the Tufts distance swim squad with an incredibly strong record in his first conference championships, setting personal records in each of the three individual events he competed in. Shafi was second place overall in the 500 yard freestyle with a time of 4:25.12. He also was second in both 1000-yard freestyle and 1650-yard freestyle. More notably, he also broke school records in every event he swam. In the 1000 freestyle, his time of 9:12.18 was over 10 seconds faster than the previous record set by John LaLime in 2020.

While achieving great individual successes, Shafi was focused on his role in the team.

“I personally am very proud of how our team fought through every session and how we backed up each other after each and every race, good or bad,” Shafi wrote in an email to the Daily. “Over the course of the meet, I hit new personal bests in every event I raced, and I am very happy with the contribution I made to the team.”

Shafi also broke a fourth school record as part of the 800 freestyle relay alongside Schreier, Lundgren and Sikka. Their combined time was a blistering 6:33.48. Tufts was behind only Williams in the event; Williams set a new NESCAC record and pool record with a time of 6:29.14.

Junior Emmett Adams set a school record in the 50 breaststroke prelims, improving on his record from last year with a time of 24.94. He finished third in the final. In the 100 breaststroke, Tufts’ swimmers finished in a cluster. Adams, first-year Jack Nussbaum and junior Darrien Johnsen took sixth, seventh and eighth. Nussbaum was third in the 200 breaststroke with a time of 1:59.72 to meet the NCAA “B” standard and set a new school record. With a time of 2:00.50, Johnsen also made the cut time to score fifth.

Sophomore Connor Townson was strong in the 400 individual medley with a time of 4:01.10. Fellow sophomore Nate Pfeffer was just behind in 4:01.21. Junior Charlie Duffy was sixth in the 200 individual medley.

The second place NESCAC finish reflected a season full of hard work from the team — a season that is not yet over for the 10 male swimmers and 13 women who have qualified for the NCAA Division III National meet.

In terms of continued competition for divers, the regional meet was the final opportunity for divers to qualify for national competition, adding pressure on them to perform well.

In the men’s three-meter event, senior Cameron Yuen and first-year Elias Brandt finished in fifth and sixth place respectively, with scores of 440.55 and 438.15. Yuen’s best dive was a back two-and-a-half somersault tuck for 58.0 points; Brandt scored 63.45 on an inward two-and-a-half somersault tuck.

The men’s one-meter saw the return of NESCAC dive champion first-year Jay Wilkinson, who had been ill previously. Wilkinson posted the strongest score from the Jumbo divers with 468.65 to take second place overall and qualify for national competition. However, all four Jumbos placed in the top 10 for the one meter — sophomore Jeremy Lawrence was in sixth place, with Yuen in seventh and Brandt in ninth.

On the women’s side, sophomore Malia Leung and first-year Arya Gupta represented Tufts. Leung placed third in the one-meter event, scoring 424.35. Her best dive was an inward one-and-a-half somersault pike which scored 48.0 points. Gupta’s one-meter score of 346.05 was good for 25th place. Leung showed great consistency across the meet, placing sixth out of 27 entrants in the three-meter event the following day with 434.60. Gupta improved on her one-meter standing by finishing 18th in the three-meter.

Wilkinson and Yuen qualified for national competition based on their performances at the regional event, as did Leung on the women’s side. Brandt and Lawrence were both selected as alternates.

Sikka is looking toward the NCAA Championships.

“We were disheartened by the second place finish, especially because we went undefeated the whole regular season. But we closed the gap on Williams and produced top times in the nation nonetheless,” Sikka wrote.  “The mood is at an all-time high. … We’re fired up and ready to show [Williams] that we won’t back down at the NCAA Championship meet in three weeks as well as next season.”