Swimming and diving Hosts Midd Invite, Women place fourth at NESCACs

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Men’s and Women’s Swimming and Diving hosted over 230 athletes at the Middlebury Invitational on Jan. 27-28 in preparation for the championship portion of the season, which began for the women’s team at Bowdoin College last weekend, Feb. 10-12; they would go on to place fourth out of 11 at NESCAC Championships.

While team scores were not calculated at the Midd Invite, the meet allowed the Panthers to compete against men and women from Tufts and Williams, as well as women from Springfield and the University of Vermont.

“We have 20 swimmers and one diver who [shaved] and [tapered] for [the Midd Invite as] their end of the year meet, so [their hope was to] hit all best times and end the season on the right note,” said Head Coach Bob Rueppel.

“I think this year we’ve learned how to swim fast when we don’t feel well; so it’s not the feel that gets us through the race, it’s just being intense and racing.”

This strategy seems to have paid off for Middlebury that weekend in both individual and relay events.

Claire Treesh ’17 and Hannah Kredich ’20 each touched the wall first for the women in the 100 backstroke (59.45) and 1,650 free (18.31.92), respectively.

Additionally, co-captain Masami Cookson ’17 placed third in the 1000 free (11.07.84), while Stephanie Andrews ’18 (24.49) and Liza MacCowatt ’19 (25.34) swept first and second in the 50 free and Frances VanderMeer ’20 (53.19, first) and Grace Stimson ’19 (53.97, third) dominated the 100 free.

Maya Gomez ’20’s success in the 100 breaststroke (1:05.67, first) was mirrored on the men’s side as Will Pannos ’20 swam the same race in 1:00.40 for second place.

Other top personal finishes for the men came from Will Greene ’19 on the one-meter diving board (479.95 points, first), Connor McCormick ’18 in the 500 free (4.45.99, second) and Brendan Leech ’19 in the 200 IM (1:58.90, third).

In relays, Middlebury came second in the men’s 400 free (3:15.01, Leech, Noel Antonisse ’17, Michael McGean ’17 and McCormick) and medley (3:36.86, Justin Cho ’17, David Hogan ’17, Pannos and Charles Quinn ’20), as well as in the men’s 800 free relay (7:11.17, McGean, Jack Dowling ’18, Andrew Grant ’17 and Morgan Matsuda ’19).

The women dominated the 200 free relay (1:38.94, Gomez, Kristin Karpowicz ’19, Stimson and Andrews), the 200 medley relay (1:50.80, VanderMeer, Nora O’Leary ’17, Gomez and Catherine Pollack ’19), and the 800 free relay (7:50.85, Andrews, Caitlin Carroll ’17, Alaina Pribis ’19 and Morgan Burke ’17).

The swimmers who finished their season at the Middlebury Invitational “[provided] such a fire and excitement,” said Coach Rueppel. “So it’s a great blueprint for the other 48 [swimmers who also compete at NESCACs] to see in front of them.”

When it came to the Women’s NESCAC Championships last weekend, Middlebury tallied 1,174 points, enough for a fourth place finish behind Williams (1,856), Amherst (1,367) and Conn. College (1,268.5). After trailing Bates closely on the first two days of the meet, the Panther women finally surpassed the Polar Bears by 14.5 points on the final day to earn fourth.

“I’ve definitely pushed them to another level training-wise because I thought they could handle that, and they have,” said Coach Rueppel on how he prepared the women to maintain last year’s standing in the NESCAC while recording eight NCAA ‘B’ cut times.

On day one, Gomez, Burke, Isabel Wyer ’18 and VanderMeer placed fourth in the 200 free relay. The group swam a 1:34.77 in the event finals, but their fastest swim came in the preliminaries: their 1:34.73 in that round set a new school record and was good enough for an NCAA ‘B’ cut time.

Individually, Gomez claimed the 50 breast title with her pool-record setting time of 28.93. Celia Ripple ’20 touched the wall just 0.73 seconds behind Gomez to place fourth (29.66) in the 50 breast.

Then VanderMeer tied for third in the 50 back final (26.68), and fourth in the 50 fly (25.60). Burke and Wyer earned more points for the Panthers by finishing eight in the 50 free final (24.16) and fourth in the 500 free (4:57.79), respectively.

As a team, Wyer, Ripple, VanderMeer and Burke’s second-place swim in the 400 medley relay (3:47.85) not only qualifies as a NCAA ‘B’ cut time, but also broke a school record by 1.28 seconds.

The next day, Wyer became the only non-Williams swimmer to win an event with her NCAA ‘B’ cut performance in the 200 free (1:50.85). Burke swam a 1:53.09 in the same event final, earning her seventh place.

Jessica Lipton ’20 got tenth in the 1,000 free (10:36.43), and two Panthers made the top ten in the 100 breast: Gomez (1:03.78, fifth) and O’Leary (1:06.12, tenth). Gomez’s 1:03.38 swim in the preliminary heat of the 100 breast marked Middlebury’s fourth NCAA ‘B’ cut time of the meet.

The Panthers recorded two more ‘B’ cut times before the end of that day when they placed fifth in both the 200 medley relay (1:45.08, VanderMeer, Ripple, Gomez and Andrews), and the 800 free relay (7:37.39, Burke, Karpowicz, Andrews and Wyer).

Key finishes by Angela Riggins ’19 in the 1,650 free, (17.49.16, eighth), VanderMeer and Burke in the 100 free (52.27 for sixth, and 52.28 for seventh) and Ripple in the 200 breast (2:23.18, 10th) helped Middlebury overtake Bates for fourth place on the final day of the meet.

O’Leary, who broke Jamie Hillas ’14’s school record by 1.12 seconds in the prelims of the 200 breast (2:19.09, NCAA ‘B’ cut), swam a 2:19.97 in the event finals to earn key fourth place points for the Panthers.

Elissa DeNunzio dove to sixth place in the three-meter competition (392.25 points) on Sunday to compliment her eighth place finish in on one-meter board (380.15 points) back on the first day, and VanderMeer, Wyer, Karpowicz and Burke finished the meet strong in the 400 free relay finals with another NCAA ‘B’ cut time of 3:28.95 (fifth).

“[The team has] really committed to the training program and to each other,” said Coach Rueppel of his swimmers this season, “and you can’t have it any better than that.”

Men’s Swimming and Diving will travel to Wesleyan this weekend (Feb. 17-19) for their own NESCAC championship meet.

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