Talented young team goes for two straight wins

By Emma Broder

The Maroons didn’t face much opposition at last weekend’s away meet at Wheaton College. On the men’s side, Chicago was tops in the two relays and won all the individual swims. The Maroon women also won both relays, and six of the nine individual swims. It was the first meet of the season for the team, which hopes to score in March’s NCAA Championships, according to head coach Jason Weber.

The Maroons will stress self-improvement this weekend at home against IIT. “We’re mostly focusing on personal times, and inching closer to personal goals. The difficulty and intensity of practice is high; people are trying their hardest,” Karen Chen, a second-year who swims the 100- and 200-meter breaststroke, as well as the 200-meter IM, said. Because the team has only been training for three weeks, Chen said the team is going to try events outside of their comfort zone and focus on fundamentals.

Robert Vanneste, a fourth-year captain who swims the 100- and 200-meter backstroke, had similar thoughts: “A lot of this meet is trying to get good in-season times, and continuing our momentum from this weekend. We usually don’t have a problem with this team. We’ll win the meet, but we’ll have some good competition at the top level.”

Because the upcoming meet is not a highly competitive one in the context of season, there was talk of how the team would fare over the course of the winter and even in coming years. But Coach Weber was insistent that the team not overlook the competition.

“I’ll try to make sure they’re not looking past this meet,” Weber said. “On paper, we’re better this season, so if we train harder, we should be better.” This year’s team is young and brimming with potential, especially on the men’s side, where 13 of the 27 swimmers are first-years (the women’s team only graduated two seniors last year). Under Weber, who has been head coach for six years, the team’s record for dual meet competition has improved to 28–13 for men and 30–13 for women.

“Every year I’ve been here, we’ve gotten more competitive,” Vanneste said. “We’re starting to feel more like a national-level team than we did my first couple of years.” One of those 13 first-years, Matt Scherer, who swims the 50- and 100-yard freestyle, said the younger swimmers have integrated well with their new teammates. “It’s welcoming,” Scherer said.

Whatever differences there may be in the teams’ ages and competitive levels, Chicago’s pool is certainly a point of envy for Illinois Tech, whose coach requested to hold the meet here, though it has traditionally taken place at the opponent’s campus. “We were supposed to go there, but he decided our facilities were much nicer,” Weber said. “A lot more people are able to compete in our facilities; we have a lot more lanes. The team likes to stay home—it’s easier on them, since they can sleep in their own beds and do homework.”

The dual meet against IIT will begin at 1 p.m. at the Myers-McLoraine Pool.