Women’s swimming records best-ever Maroon Invite finish

By Joe Katz

It wasn’t a win, but it was another step forward for women’s swimming.

Coming off a gut-wrenching 114–113 loss to Illinois Wesleyan November 5, the Maroons bounced back to finish third at the Maroon Invite Friday and Saturday. The team’s 554 points put them well behind UW–Oshkosh (625) and Luther (593), but they were more than enough to surpass their other five competitors. It was their best finish in the three-year history of the Myers–McLoraine meet.

“I think we exceeded expectations. We didn’t finish this high last year,” said first-year Kaitlin Roche, who finished sixth in the 200-yard individual medley and fifth in the 400-yard IM. “We’re happy to be in the top three. If we keep coming together as a team and supporting each other, we’re going to keep improving.”

Among those that couldn’t spoil the day for the hosts were the conference rival Wash U Bears, who came in fourth with 440.

“It’s definitely a big confidence booster, since we know we have to beat them out at the UAA Championships. Knowing we can hold our own against them will be a big help,” Roche said.

Roche’s classmate Sarah Laws led the way on the weekend for the Maroons, rocking the field in the 100-yard freestyle with a top-ranked time of 55.61 seconds and coming in less than seven-tenths of a second behind Illinois Tech second-year Liz Wong to grab the silver in the 50-yard freestyle (25.70). First-year Rachel Zarnke recorded a runner-up effort of her own in the 200-yard butterfly (2:23.06), and the ever-reliable third-year team captain Katherine Yang hit the wall second in the 500-yard freestyle (5:28.44) to go along with top-eight finishes in the 200-yard butterfly (4/2:33.56) and the 1650-yard freestyle (5/18:46.59).

“Katherine swam really well. She had the hardest event schedule, and in every event placed and swam near her best times,” Roche said.

The relays continued to be a problem for the team, with no victories in five events and only one second-place finish in the 800-yard freestyle. The Maroons’ struggles in this area proved decisive in last week’s loss to IWU, which came down to a Titans victory in the 400-yard freestyle relay.

“If we had placed higher in the relays, we probably could have taken second place ,” Roche said.

The team has already equaled last year’s dual meet win total, having gone 2–2 over the first three weeks of the season. While their relay efforts may not have gone quite as well as coaches and swimmers would have hoped, they still have plenty of time to improve before the UAA Championships February 9 and 10 and will be looking to build off the momentum of last weekend first.

“Even with all the distance swimming, and all the preliminaries and finals, a lot of us swam better at night. We were able to pull out good performances even when we were tired,” Roche said. “We’re feeling pretty good about this team. We can definitely challenge at UAAs.”

Ratner will play host to Maroons swimming for the third week in a row Saturday as the women take on Grinnell. The Pioneers will compete for the first time this weekend, opening their season against Loras Friday before taking on Chicago.