Sports Shorts 10/24/06: Swimming starts strong against IIT

By Wayne

They say nothing is more important than a first impression. In their season openers Saturday, men’s and women’s swimming made quite a splash and offered a glimpse of the type of competition they’ll be putting up this year.

After an offseason that saw men’s swimming’s assistant coach and assistant aquatics director, Jason Weber, promoted to head coach of both squads, the Maroons jumped into 2006 without missing a stroke and rode a wave of new swimmers to victory. Dominating the Illinois Institute of Technology, the men drowned the Scarlet Hawks at Myers-McLoraine Pool 130–102 and the women wiped out the opponents 146–79 with the two teams combining for several first and second place finishes.

“Overall, the confidence level is pretty high. Our team is very good for this season,” Weber said. “Some are already as fast as they would normally be in later quarters. Our team is definitely better this year.”

Getting a boost from a crop of fresh rookies, the men’s side managed to grab six first-place finishes with several swimmers turning in top-notch individual performances that set a high bar for the rest year. Newcomer Chase Bassignani slapped the wall first in the 1,000-yard freestyle with a 10:37.42 time while classmate Brian Young took home the gold for the 100-yard backstroke with 56.77 seconds. The squad lost three members this year, but these two new Maroons should help fill any holes left behind.

Not to be outdone by the first-years, fourth-year Pat Seastedt and third-years Andrew Kent and Zach Ergish all came in ahead of the competition in their events. Seastedt posted a time of 1:01.33 in the 100-yard breaststroke, Kent slapped the wall at 1:48.35 in the 200-yard freestyle, and Ergish finished with 2:02.37 in the 200-yard individual medley.

“We’re a lot deeper this year,” an impressed Weber said of the men’s team. “We have a good chance of going undefeated.”

With team leader Katherine Yang (A.B. ’06) graduating a year early, the women are looking for their new veteran presence to pace the squad. Third-years Ellie McNiel and Allyson Smally stepped up for the job Saturday and helped set the tone for the year with two of the team’s five gold finishes. Ellie clocked in at 5:56.34 for first in the 500-yard freestyle while Smally won her event, the 500-yard freestyle, with 12:56.74.

“We’re still building the women’s team,” Weber said. “But all of the women are working very hard.”

Helping the squad make waves were rookies Jeannette Daly, Cassie O’Neill, and Alicia Bushman, who all took first place for Chicago. Daly recorded a time of 2:07.09 on the 200-yard freestyle, O’Neill won the 200-yard individual medley with 2:19.05, and Bushman claimed first in the 100-yard backstroke with 1:05.39.

“We just started training seriously in October, so I didn’t expect too much out of this first meet,” Weber said.

The Maroons hit the deck again November 4 when they square off against Illinois Wesleyan & Principia.