Students on campus may not be plunging head-first into a new semester, but the men’s and women’s swimming and diving teams are heading strong into the new year. The waterfowl faced tough defeat in early December against Tufts, Williams, and Worcester Polytechnic Institute, and didn’t dive back into the competition pool until Saturday, Jan. 20, after a canceled Jan. 6 matchup against Hamilton.
While most of the teams’ peers weren’t home at Wes, the teams’ took home-pool advantage as they squared off against Roger Williams University and Springfield University in the Wesleyan Natatorium. Both teams persevered to defeat Roger Williams, with a men’s 176-123 win and a women’s 195-105 victory. While the men’s team also beat Springfield 181-119, the women’s team fell short in a close 158.50-140.50 loss.
Overall, the men’s team claimed an impressive seven first-place finishes and over twenty top-three performances. Strength was definitely in numbers as the 400-yard medley took the top slot, composed of Phillip Wong ’21, Alex Kapphahn ’19, Spencer Tang ’18, and Quinn Tucker ’20. Freestyle relay also placed first with Ali Pourmalecki ’18, Kapphahn, Tucker, and Tang. Not only were their finishes strong, but they were also leagues ahead of the runner-up. The medley cleared second place by 3.68 seconds, and the freestyle by 5.05.
In individual races, the remaining first-place finishes came from Tang in both the 100 and 200 backstroke, Pourmaleki in the 100 and 200 butterfly, and Tucker in the 200 freestyle. Eric Lindheim-Marx ’21 (1,650 freestyle and 500 freestyle), Aidan Winn ’18 (200 freestyle), Kapphahn (50 freestyle), and Max Distler ’18 (200 butterfly) all notched second-place performances. Rounding out the top three wins were familiar faces: Kapphahn (100 breaststroke) and Wong (200 breaststroke), with additional performances on the board from divers Brandon Pearson ’19 (3-meter) and Ethan Chupp ’18 (1-meter).
Although the Cardinals weren’t able to claim victory over both teams, they ended Saturday’s meet with six first-place and 18 top-three finishes. The 400 medley relay team consisting of sophomores Hannah O’Halloran and Leah Cravitz and two Zoes (captain Kerrich ’18 and Darmon ’21) claimed first place in 4:06.12, clearing second place by 4.97. The 400 freestyle relay team was not to be outdone and also took first, with O’Halloran, Darmon, Maela Whitcomb ’19, and Grace Middleton ’20 finishing just 0.85 seconds ahead of the next group.
Relay members Whitcomb, Kerrich, and O’Halloran also saw individual success. Whitcomb placed first in the 1,650 free and second in the 500 freestyle, while Kerrich finished first in the 100 and 200 breaststroke and third in the 200 IM. O’Halloran also notched a first-place effort in the 100 backstroke and second in the 200 backstroke.
Other notable performances came from Bella Wiener ’19, who placed third in the 100 and 200 backstroke; Darmon, who claimed second in the 200 freestyle and third in the 50 freestyle; Kylie Han ’19, who fought for a third-place spot in the 100 freestyle; and Middleton, who also earned third place in the 100 butterfly. The women’s divers, junior Devon Cooper and senior captain Emily Kessler, took two second-place and one third-place score, respectively.
The teams finished their first week of classes with another home matchup, this time against NESCAC competitors Colby and Bowdoin. While the women’s team was able to go even with a 241-120 win over the Mules and 247-119 Polar Bear loss, the men’s team went 0-2 in a close 198-170 loss to Colby and a 240-129 fall to Bowdoin.
Many similar faces were seen at the tops of the scoreboard: O’Halloran continued her success with a runner-up finish in the 200 backstroke and third place in the 200 freestyle; Darmon and Middleton, who saw both individual and relay success in prior meets, finished second in the 200 freestyle and third in the 50 freestyle, respectively. On the board, Cooper once again excelled with a third-place finish in the 3-meter event.
The team’s first-place honors came from sophomore Caroline Murphy, in the 50 backstroke, and Whitcomb, in the 100-yard medley.
Despite their pair of defeats, the men’s team took three first-place finishes this weekend, two of them from senior Spencer Tang in the 50 backstroke and 100 butterfly. Practice must make perfect, as fellow senior Ali Pourmaleki also gained a first-place honor in the 200 freestyle, along with a second-place nod in the 200 butterfly.
Kapphahn and Phillip Wong continued the individual success with runner-up finishes in the 50 freestyle and 200 freestyle, respectively. On the board, Chupp landed in second during the 3-meter, while Pearson finished third in the 1-meter.
In team relays, Tang, Kapphahn, Nicolas Moran ’21, and Tucker touched the wall second in the 200 medley. Tang and Kapphahn placed second again, this time with Pourmaleki and Winn, during the 200 freestyle relay.
As the team finishes their dual meets this week with a home Friday matchup against Conn College, they look ahead to the NESCAC Championships. After O’Halloran and Murphy advanced to the DIII NCAA Championships last year, Head Coach Peter Solomon hopes to bring more qualifiers to the competition this spring. He believes the team’s dedication will pay off in during future competitive play.
“The team has pushed themselves in practices on a daily basis and has done everything that we’ve asked,” Solomon said. “It has been exciting watching the individual improvement each weekend…. We have seen the majority of the swimmers and divers have their best times and scores of the year in recent meets this semester. As we wind down on the intensity and volume of our training these next few weeks, the swimmers and divers will have a chance to rest up and get ready to compete against some of the best teams in all of Division III.”
Despite the team’s early losses, Solomon has faith that the team can excel in upcoming meets.
“It’ll take a complete team effort to pull-off these [NESCAC] upsets, but with how well they have trained this season and the incredible senior leadership we’ve had all year, the sky is the limit,” he said.
Zoë Kaplan can be reached at email@example.com.