Swim Teams Host Midd Invitational

By Fritz Parker

In their final meet before the NESCAC championships, the Panther swimming and diving teams hosted the Middlebury Invitational on Friday and Saturday, Feb. 1 and 2. The men and women competed against swimmers from Williams, Amherst and Springfield, with several Panthers recording season-best times.

Andy Rosenthal ’16 and Ian MacKay ’14 each won events for the men at the Middlebury Invitational, with Rosenthal finishing first in the 1,000-yard freestyle and MacKay in the 50-yard freestyle. Teddy Kuo ’15 was second in the 200-yard butterfly.

The Panther women were led by Jamie Hillas ’15, who took first in the 100-yard butterfly, and Caroline Roos ’14, winner of the 200-yard butterfly. Both of the women’s medley relay teams also finished first, with Hillas, Andie Tibbetts ’14 and Maddy Berkman ’15 swimming legs for both teams.

“We had a great weekend,” said head coach Bob Rueppel. “I was very pleased with how they swam.”

For the roughly one-third of the team not competing at NESCACs, the Invitational was the final meet of the season. Several members of that group turned in impressive performances – including Roos’s victory in the butterfly – as they tapered their training in preparation for the meet.

“Coming back from abroad I went into the season with no expectations so I was thrilled to have swum as well as I did,” said Roos. “I think that my relaxed attitude going into [the Middlebury Invitational] really helped me to achieve my goals.”

“Everyone dropped time,” said Rueppel. “There was a nice enthusiasm with the group [competing in their last meet] that will help the NESCAC group. It can only be contagious.”

After training through February recess, the women’s NESCAC team heads to Bowdoin on Friday, Feb. 15 for the three-day conference championship meet. The men will compete the following weekend at Wesleyan.

Rueppel expressed confidence in the women’s preparation as they head into their final weekend of the season.

“I’m very pleased with everything right now,” he said. “They’re just going about their business. They are very confident heading into the homestretch here.”

The women finished fourth at the conference meet a year ago and hope to compete with conference powers Williams and Amherst this time around.

Williams has won the past 12 women’s NESCAC team crowns. Middlebury has finished second five times in the history of the conference, most recently in the 2008 season. The Panthers most recently cracked the top three at the conference meet in 2010.

“I always use the term with my athletes at big meets to lose yourself within the team, and then the spotlight comes off of you,” said Rueppel. “That’s going to be easy with this group because they genuinely enjoy being around each other.”

In the individual events, Hillas will look to defend her 2012 NESCAC titles in the 50-yard and 100-yard breaststroke, and she enters with the conference’s fastest seed times in both events. Hillas also has the top time in the 100-yard Individual Medley and is seeded third in the 200-yard breaststroke.

Berkman enters the meet as the third seed in the 50-yard butterfly, just 0.26 behind the top-seeded swimmer from Amherst, and fifth in the 100-yard Individual Medley.

“I am really excited to see how everyone else does at their championship meets,” said Roos.

Tibbetts, Hillas, Berkman and Ann Carpenter ’15 combined for a win in the 200-medley relay last season, and should vie for the title again this year.

“Probably the biggest focus I’m going to give them for the weekend is thinking about living in the moment,” said Rueppel. “That second that’s in front of you, enjoy it. That enables you to dictate what the outcome is.”

The championship meet kicks off with trials on Friday morning, Feb. 15, with the champion being named after the last final is contested on Sunday afternoon, Feb. 17.

While the women head to Maine, the men’s team continues training for their conference meet the following weekend.

“I feel really good about the ladies’ perspective going into this weekend,” said Rueppel. “We’re going to have a blast.”

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