Panthers Swim To 1-1 Weekend At Union

By Fritz Parker

The men’s and women’s swimming and diving teams went on the road to Union College this past Saturday, Jan. 19, to take on the host Dutchmen in the team’s last away dual meet of the season. While the Panther women won convincingly, the men – with several key contributors out due to illness – fell by eight points.

Ethan Litman ’13 led the way for the men against Union, winning both the 50 and 100-yard freestyle. Andy Rosenthal ’16 continued his dominance in the distance freestyle, taking first in the 1000-yard race. Fellow first-year, Stephan Koenigsberger ’16, finished first in the 100-yard breaststroke and was just out-touched in the 50-yard breaststroke, finishing. 16 seconds behind the winner from Union. For the divers, Dylan Peters ’16 took the top spot in the one-meter event.

Sprinter Ian MacKay ’14, who won two events against Bates the previous weekend, was recovering from illness and had to miss the meet against Union. Overall, the men fell to the Dutchmen 154-146.

“We had some guys out sick and lost by eight points, so they scrapped,” said head coach Bob Rueppel. “The effort level was great. I thought we swam well this weekend.”

Jamie Hillas ’15 won three events – the 50-yard breaststroke, 100-yard backstroke and 100-yard individual medley – to pace the women against Union. Courtney Haron ’15 picked up wins in the 100-yard butterfly and 100-yard freestyle for Middlebury. Lydia Carpenter ’15 also won two events, finishing first in the 50-yard freestyle and 100-yard breaststroke, while Colleen Harper ’14 won both diving events. Other Panther event-winners were first-years Megan Griffin ’16 and Maddie Pierce ’16.

The women also showed their depth in the 200-medley relay as their teams took the top three places, pushing Union to fourth place.

“I thought that the team swam really well,” said Haron. “We are definitely seeing our hard work pay off and our performances this past weekend have given us the confidence we need.”
The Panther women breezed through the overall scoring, winning 221-74.

Rueppel also highlighted the high level of training that his athletes have been doing during the past few weeks, suggesting that swimmers often don’t instantly see a corresponding drop in their times.

“We’ve been training really well, and I think sometimes when you train at a high level, your expectations tend to go up,” he said. “Immediately I think people start to put times in their head. You see people hit the wall and look up and see the scoreboard and their expectation isn’t met.”

With only two meets remaining before NESCACs, Rueppel must now pare down the rosters for the maximum 24-member championship teams. With 33 men and 39 women on the roster, that can involve making some tough decisions.

“This was probably my toughest year ever as a coach to name a team, because our depth is so much better now,” said Rueppel. “There are a lot of factors that go into it. Some people think swimming is so [objective] with time that it’s an easy decision; you also have to look at the events, the sprint events tend to be more competitive. The other factor I have to look into is where we are as a team relay-wise.”

Up next for the Panthers is a dual meet next Saturday, Jan. 26, when Middlebury hosts conference-rival Williams. The Ephs won both men’s and women’s NESCAC titles a year ago, and will provide a stern test for the Panthers heading into the championship season.

“I want to compete,” said Rueppel. “We’re not focused on time, just on that particular performance that’s in front of them.”

For those not competing at NESCACs, the season winds up with the Middlebury Invitational on Feb. 1 and 2. That meet will also serve as a final tune-up for the swimmers on the NESCAC team.

“For the Middlebury invite, we have a third of the team that that’s their focus right now,” said Rueppel. “For the NESCAC team, each person will do one individual event at the Middlebury invite, target that as a race we want to do well in and then swim relays. Then we’ll rest up for NESCACs.”

NESCACs will be held at Bowdoin for the women on Feb. 15-17 while the boys will travel to Wesleyan the following weekend Feb. 22-24 for their Championships.

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