Swimmers triumph in Ratner

By Carolina Bolado

The men’s and women’s swim teams handily defeated a depleted Wheaton squad Saturday afternoon in their first home meet at the Myers-McLoraine Pool in the Gerald Ratner Athletics Center.

The competition was the first on campus since the Maroons’ 1996 meet against Milliken in the 20-yard Bartlett pool that was demolished when the building was converted into a dining hall.

“It’s great to finally have home meets and not be traveling all of the time,” said third-year Erin Lyons, co-captain of the women’s team. “All of my friends can come and watch my meets.”

The women are now 3-0 in dual meets, while the men improved to 1-1 with their wins on Saturday. Lyons and first-year Annie Toro each had a pair of first-place finishes. Lyons took the 400- and 800-meter freestyle events, while Toro won the 100- and 200-meter backstrokes. Third-year Northe Saunders won the 50-, 100-, and 200-meter freestyle events, as well as the 100-meter butterfly.

Almost every Division I, II, and III school in Illinois was invited to compete in what was originally intended to be a large invitational meet. With the exception of Wheaton, which brought just four swimmers, all had already scheduled meets for that date.

The meet allowed the coaches to test the timing system, which Villareal described as state of the art. “It was a really good opportunity to work the kinks out as far as meet management goes,” said George Villareal, the coach of the men’s team.

Although official NCAA competitions use the short-course (25-yard) format, the lane lines were set up lengthwise for Saturday’s meet to give swimmers from invited teams the opportunity to make Olympic Trials cuts. “As far as I know, there haven’t been any long course meets hosted by Division III schools in 10 or 11 years. It was a good way to showcase our new pool,” Villareal said.

Though they were racing mainly against each other, the Chicago swimmers used the opportunity to gear up for this weekend’s showdown against Grinnell, arguably the most important meet of the season’s first half.

“It is going to be a very challenging meet, but everyone has been performing so well lately at both practice and at competitions that I think we have a real chance to go out there and surprise them,” Lyons said. “Everyone is feeling pretty pumped and ready to go out after them.”

Villareal hopes to set the tone for future home meets with the upcoming Grinnell competition. The Maroons have three more home meets in winter quarter and are slated to host the conference championship in 2005. In addition, he hopes to eventually hold the state long course championships for age-group swimmers at the Myers-McLoraine pool.

“This pool really ranks right up there with the best of them,” Villareal said. “It’s a fast pool, and it’s architecturally stunning.”

The coaches are trying to instill in the swimmers a sense of pride for their new home as they get accustomed to racing in Ratner. “Later this week, I’m going to start preparing them to get used to the idea of defending their home territory, really treat this as someone’s coming into their own house,” Villareal said.