While Wesleyan students might associate colder days and longer nights with the arrival of the upcoming holiday season, the drop in temperature and absence of daylight only means one thing to swimmers and divers around campus: The season is upon them at last. A young but talented men’s side will look to improve upon a disappointing 1-10 dual meet record from last season, though its eighth-place finish at NESCAC championships last February showed a marked improvement in both quality of swims and team chemistry as the season progressed. The women’s team, for its part, will look to its equally promising underclassmen to carry the squad beyond last season’s 4-7 dual meet record and eighth place NESCAC conference finish and potentially land individual spots at NCAA championships come March. Though both teams have much to prove entering the 2015-2016 campaign, male and female swimmers alike feel confident that this will be a breakout season for Wesleyan swimming and diving.
“Although we graduated some key swimmers last year, we return most of our core and also bring in a very talented freshman class,” said backstroker and distance freestyler Nate Courville ’17. “Our main team goal for this season is to take another big step in the NESCAC and move up in the rankings at champs. Last year was our first top-eight finish in a while, and we hope to improve on that finish. We have a very young team and the experience gained from such a successful 2015 NESCAC championships meet will pay dividends this year.”
Early on in the season, Courville began noticing significant development in the team’s skills and has confidence in its ability to improve this season.
“Already we have seen a lot of improvement in our returning swimmers and the freshmen have also posted some impressive early season swims,” he said. “We have a lot of well-rounded swimmers who can be successful in multiple events so finding the best lineup will be challenging and I expect to see many different combinations before our champs.”
Flyer Karl Ortegon ’18 echoed his teammate’s sentiments regarding the squad’s potential heading into this season.
“We’ve got a lot of young talent, and the team feels a lot more cohesive than it did last year,” he said in an email to The Argus. “Everything’s coming together and we’re going to keep building our team up, and we have teams like Middlebury and Bowdoin in our sights. It’s really exciting to be a part of a program on the rise, and I can’t wait to get our NESCAC schedule started with Bates this weekend.”
Leading the charge for the men’s side this season will be diver Brandon Pearson ’18, who stunned the NESCAC in his first season of collegiate diving by taking first place at the conference championship, breaking all of Wesleyan’s diving records in the process. His performance at NESCACs earned him a spot at NCAA championships in Austin, Texas last March, the first Cardinal diver to achieve such a feat in seven years.
Also returning for Wesleyan’s men is captain and three-time NESCAC breaststroke finalist Jacques Bazile ’16, who finished 11th in the 50 breaststroke at last year’s ’CAC championships with a speedy time of 26.91. The team displayed significant depth in butterfly events last season as well, aided by the likes of Ali Pourmaleki ’18, Max Distler ’18, and captain Larry Ma ’16. While the men’s team boasts a strong core of returning swimmers, they will also look to newcomers Alex Kapphahn ’19 and Max Wimer ’19 to immediately contribute in sprint freestyle and butterfly, respectively, as well as on relays.
Wimer in particular appeared optimistic about the team’s chances heading into the season.
“This team is looking really strong so far,” he said. “Everyone is putting in work and we hope to climb up the NESCAC ladder this season. We want to move from our eighth-place finish last year to seventh or possibly sixth place this year.”
He added that in addition to helping his team secure a top six finish at NESCACS in February, he aspires to “get big” during the season.
The women’s team, which graduated seven seniors last May, hopes the addition of eight promising first-year swimmers will help fill the void left by the likes of decorated athlete Angela Slevin ’15, who left Wesleyan after shattering six individual school records. The squad will also look to returning members Luisa Chan ’18 and Zoe Kerrich ’18 to continue racking up points in breaststroke events, as well as contribute in freestyle and butterfly. Meanwhile, veteran captains Liyan Yao ’16 and Martha Smith ’17 hope to make a statement in IM events this season. Though the squad certainly has a few question marks heading into Saturday’s dual meet against Bates, team members feel confident that they have what it takes to shock their NESCAC rivals come February.
“I’m really excited for this season,” said sprinter Serena Zalkowitz ’17. “We graduated a huge part of our team last year but we brought in a great freshman class. There are lot of new sprinters that will definitely be a strong asset for our relays. Already at our season opening invitational meet at WPI a couple weekends ago all of our A relays (and even some B relays) beat the A relays we had at the meet last year. So I think we’re going to see a lot faster relays as the season progresses, which is really exciting.”
Corinne Noonan ’18 shared her teammate’s enthusiasm.
“If the energy on the team thus far is any indication of how the rest of the season is going to go, then I think it’s going to be an awesome year,” she said. “Everyone is so excited and motivated…. If we carry that kind of positivity and enthusiasm all the way to NESCACs, I think we will definitely see some really exciting time drops and stellar performances across the board.”
Both teams will travel to Lewiston, Maine on Saturday to face conference rival Bates.