After keeping men’s swimming out of first place in a rare Chicago loss at last season’s Maroon Invitational, Wash U was back for more this weekend.
Wash U’s narrow win last season had men’s swimming hungry for revenge heading into the weekend, and until Saturday’s final race, Chicago was still in contention for the win.
Still, the Maroons will have to live with second place, as the Bears won the eight-team Invitational for the second straight year by edging Chicago 1004.5– 988.5. Lincoln took third with 720 points, while North Central College finished last with 49.
“The guys swam really well, and I didn’t expect the score to be that close at all,” head coach Jason Weber said.
The meet began with timed finals on Friday. Fourth-year Shane Carlson started the Maroons off on the right foot, taking second in the 200-yard IM with a time of 1:56.68. Keeping the pace, fourth-year Alex Stabell won the 100-yard butterfly with a time of 51.89, one of his fastest times of the year.
Third-year Tim Everett added to the Maroons’ victory count in the 200-yard backstroke with a time of 2:00.60. The men continued to have a strong showing as the night went on, with a second-place performance in the 400-yard medley relay (3:35.12) and a third-place showing from Carlson in the 200-yard freestyle (1:45.53).
Heading into the second day of the competition, Chicago had held tight and stood only a few points behind Wash U.
“Based on the difficult training schedule that we had this week, the guys exceeded my expectations in how well they were competing,” Weber said.
Although the second day of competition proved less successful for the men, the Maroons still put up a strong fight throughout the day. First-years Paul Morimoto and Erik Widestrom took second and third in the 400-yard IM, with times of 4:21.26 and 4:21.39, respectively.
The men also took second in the 800-yard freestyle relay (7:11.05) with the team of Carlson, second-year James Schlabach, Everett, and Morimoto, although Wash U took the event by a commanding margin. Giving the Bears a run for their money, the 200-yard medley relay team of Everett, first-year Nic Santoro, Stabell, and first-year Marius Aleksa took second as well (1:38.58), finishing behind the winning Wash U squad by under a tenth of a second.
With such strong showings, the men were only six points behind Washington when it came down to the 400-yard freestyle relay. If the men could have captured this event, they would have been able to clinch the meet. In the end, though, Aleksa, Stabell, Santoro, and Schlabach combined for one of their fastest times of the season (3:12.11) but had to settle for third place, allowing Wash U to take first place for the weekend. Lincoln took second in the race.
“Wash U has a lot of first-years just like us, and they have a lot more depth than we do, so I wasn’t expecting a win,” Weber said. “That being said, the guys are learning to have confidence in themselves and know that they can really compete against anyone.”
Next week, the men will have a split meet, with half the team facing off against local D-I rivals Northwestern and UIC while the other half stay home to compete against Grinnell and Lake Forest.
The men are favored to continue their streak of dual meet wins and beat both Grinnell and Lake Forest, but the streak will be put to the test in Evanston as Chicago faces its stiffest competition ever.
“We have never swam teams this good. I wanted our best swimmers to have the chance to swim against better competition, even if that means taking a loss,” Weber said.