Swimming continues to ride early wave of success

By Kate Fratar

Three weeks into the season is a bit early to be making statements about the shape of the 2007–2008 swim teams, but so far Chicago has lived up to the standard of a breakout year.

This weekend’s Maroon Invite brought the South Siders back to Myers-McLoraine Pool for the first time this season and saw both squads continue their strong starts. The women took first out of a field of nine and continued to reform the program by tearing down old school records and posting new ones. On the men’s side, the Maroons were pitted against Wash U all the way up until the final event but ended up falling 10 points shy of claiming the title.

For the women, a pair of rookies paced the Maroons, with Ellie Elgamal and Katherine Leonard setting new standards in their individual events and contributing to two new relay records.

First-years have been critical to Chicago’s quick rise so far this season and none more so than Elgamal. A master at the butterfly, the San Diego native has won the event each time she has pushed off the boards for it. This weekend she clocked a swift 58.06 seconds in the 100-yard butterfly, besting her NCAA provisional-qualifying time and previous program benchmark of 58.34 from the IIT dual meet November 2.

Doing her part on the young squad, Leonard pulled out a first-place finish in the 100-yard backstroke with a showing of 1:02.13, which also established a new time to beat for the event. Leonard also pitched in along with Elgamal with legs in the record-setting 200-yard medley and the 400-yard freestyle relays.

The all-rookie squad of Charlotte Richman, Sarah Wynn, Elgamal, and Leonard in the 400 was beat out by Wash U by mere hundredths of a second, with the Bears sneaking into first at 3:45.34 and the Maroons next with a time of 3:45.94. Wash U gave Chicago its best competition on the weekend with the home team edging the Bears by a slim 10-point margin in the final tally of 834–824.

While the women were able to stay in front of Wash U through the end of Saturday, their counterparts weren’t as lucky in caging Chicago’s archrival. With third-place Kalamazoo bringing in just 674 points, the battle for top honors between the South Siders and Wash U started unfolding early.

Tied at 853 points apiece going into the last swimming event of the invite, something had to give in the 400-yard freestyle. The Bears’ combination of a gold and a bronze finish by their A and B squads squeezed the Maroons out of first place on the scoreboard. Chicago’s A team game finished in second at 3:12.20 and its B team followed with fifth at 3:19.92 to end up 10 points behind Wash U 925–915.

While their counterparts leaned on the newcomers to lift them to their high standing, the men got a boost from their veterans. A trio of upperclassmen finished ahead of the competition for the team’s three best finishers. Fourth-year Zach Ergish’s 2:00.68 in the 200-yard medley, third-year Shane Carlson’s 4:49.52 in the 500-yard freestyle, and third-year Alex Stabell’s 52.67 in the 100-yard butterfly were all good for gold.

From here, the Maroons will play host Grinnell and Lake Forest Saturday as part of a five-meet home stretch in front of the squad. Saturday’s contest wraps up the fall for Chicago, which will head into winter training before returning to action January 12 against Kalamazoo.