Swimming & Diving kicked off their 2016-2017 season on Saturday, Nov. 19 against Bates. Last season was disappointing for the Cardinals, as both the men’s and the women’s teams finished eighth at NESCAC championships. Improving upon those results is a priority for the team.
“While dual meets are important, our end goal is NESCACs. That means that we continue to push and work hard right up until we can taper,” said women’s captain Serena Zalkowitz ’17.
The team has been working hard so far in the year, given the preseason just ended and the team has only had two dual meets so far.
“We have a challenging training schedule this year with four two-a-days a week,” said men’s captain Nate Courville ’17.
The dual meets have not gone the Cardinals’ way so far, as the men lost 168-108 to Amherst and 174-105 to Bates. The women have also started the season 0-2, losing 184-103 to Amherst and 207-91 to Bates.
“I think at the first two meets the team was broken down from the intense training we have been doing at the start of the season. As we become fully acclimated to the new schedule, I think we will start to see a lot of improvement in our times,” Courville said.
Though the meets did not end as the team had hoped, there are promising results, especially among some of the younger swimmers. Quinn Tucker ’20 won the 200-meter freestyle in the Bates meet and finished second in the meet against Amherst, less than a second behind the winner.
On the women’s side, first-years Hannah O’Halloran and Grace Middleton finished third and fourth, respectively, in the 50m freestyle against Amherst, while O’Halloran finished third in the 200m backstroke and second in the 100m backstroke against Bates. These underclassmen are part of the 15 of 21 swimmers that are first or second years on the women’s team and the seven first- or second-year swimmers on the men’s team. This youth points to an exciting future for the teams in the years to come, as well as the rest of this year, as these student-athletes become used to the college swimming schedule.
In addition to success during meets, these younger students are setting a good tone for the team as well, and Courville and the other captains have taken notice.
“Over my four years swimming at Wesleyan, the mentality on the team has changed dramatically for the better,” Courville said. “We have a lot of underclassmen who come to the pool and work their hardest every day no matter what’s going on outside of the water, and that mentality is contagious and pushes you to improve yourself. Each year the team takes a step in the right direction and we will continue that this year.”
With the new swimmers and the increased time together practicing, each team is also more bonded.
“I think that our team energy can always, and should always, continue to improve,” Zalkowitz said. “This year, we’re practicing a lot more than we have in the past which means we’re spending a lot more time together as a team. It’s great to see teammates that all get along and that all feed off each other’s energy and enthusiasm.”
On the other hand, it is troubling that the team continues to struggle at retaining older athletes. Courville and his co-captains Zach Carfi ’17 and Andrew Gartley ’17 are the only seniors on the men’s team, while Zalkowitz is the lone survivor of the women’s recruiting class that she headlined four years ago.
The teams look to get on the winning path this upcoming weekend as Wesleyan plays host to the Connecticut Cup, a meet that brings Conn College, Trinity, the Coast Guard Academy, Eastern Connecticut State University, and Western Connecticut State University to campus on Saturday at 10 a.m.
Though regular season results matter, both captains stressed their focus on the NESCAC championships.
“The hard work we are putting in now will absolutely pay off at the NESCAC championship meet in February,” Courville said.
“I’m most looking forward to seeing how we do at NESCAC’s,” Zalkowitz said. “The women’s team has a lot more depth this year, and we have some very competitive relays to take to championships. I’m excited to see how we compare to past years.”