At DePauw, Chicago will have last chance to prep for UAA meet

The swim teams have their final opportunity to tune up for the UAA Championships when they clash with DePauw’s talented squads.

By Chris Boots

After finishing in last place in their higher division dual meets, men’s and women’s swimming are ready to get back in the pool with a D-III foe.

Looking to build some momentum in their last performance before the UAA championship, Chicago, ranked 23rd on the men’s side, heads to DePauw this weekend to take on its 15th-ranked men’s and 18th-ranked women’s squads. Saturday marks a return to D-III competition for the Maroons after hosting D-I UW–Milwaukee last weekend. They had previously lined up against D-I Northwestern and UIC and D-II Lewis.

“I think all the tougher competition has helped our swimmers compete at a higher level and raise their confidence,” head coach Jason Weber said. “I don’t think any of them are intimidated by any D-III team or swimmer since they’ve already swum against some of the best D-I competition.”

While neither Chicago squad has notched a win against D-I opponents, both teams have been strong within their division this season. The women’s only dual meet loss to a D-III team came back in November, when Grinnell handed the Maroons a 163–135 home defeat. However, the squad was split in that appearance, with standouts like second-year Ellie Elgamal missing from action due to a cross town competition against Northwestern. Chicago’s men have lost two D-III duals, falling to Grinnell using a split squad of their own and dropping another to 16th-ranked Kalamazoo.

To succeed Saturday, Weber says both teams need to dominate in distance events, namely the 500 and 1,650 free. The two DePauw squads have weaker distance rosters, leaving Chicago opportunities to pick up big points with long-range weapons like first-year Megan St. John and second-year Phillip Bartels. St. John has won an event in all but two appearances this season and owns a NCAA–provisional qualifying time in the 1,650.

Weber also added that competing closely with DePauw’s marquee swimmers in the 100- and 200-meter free and fly on the men’s side, and the 100- and 200-meter breast and 200-meter fly and IM on the women’s side will be key to leaving Indiana with a pair of victories.

“If we can win those events or place well in them, then it will be up to the rest of their team to come up big,” Weber said. “I don’t think they have the depth to beat us if we take out their best swimmers.”

In order to get these mid-distance wins, Chicago’s women will need to rely on athletes like Elgamal, first-year Laura Biery, and third-year Cassie O’Neill. A consistent winner in both fly events and the 200 IM, Elgamal has posted a pair of NCAA–provisional times. Biery has also picked up first-place finishes in the 200 IM, and she and O’Neill both have individual wins for Chicago in the breaststroke.

For the men, fourth-year Alex Stabell is looking to keep DePauw’s best athletes in check in the 100 and 200 fly events, where he’s been putting up wins all year, including a NCAA–provisional time in the 100. Second-year James Schlabach, a 100 freestyle specialist who was edged out of first place against Milwaukee last weekend, will also contend for Chicago.

Despite preparing for the immediate competition, Chicago also has its focus on the upcoming UAA championship, hosted by the Maroons in two weeks.

“I’m not so concerned about the times they put up,” Weber said, “but I’d like to see some good racing and competing this weekend since this is our last tune-up for UAAs. This is our last chance to focus on the little things and not be sloppy or forget about technique. If they practice and take care of those things this weekend in preparation for UAAs, then we’ll post some fast times at conference.”