The University of Chicago swim teams started the season off with a splash by posting two wins in meets this past weekend. Both the men and women swept dual meets against the Illinois Institute of Technology on Friday and Benedictine University on Saturday. "The team is off to the best start we've had in a long time. The men and women being 2-0 is huge," said Coach Sheila O'Connor.
The Maroon squads rode the wave of support to a 92-77 finish for the men and an 83-50 final for the women. "We had an audience full of family members, friends, and alumni cheering us on and that definitely helped to get everyone excited," said fourth-year women's captain Anne Apuzzo. "Because we don't have any home meets, it is unusual to look up in the stands and see so much support. Even though there were some first-meet jitters before the meet against IIT, they certainly weren't evident in the final scores," Apuzzo said.
On the men's side, first-year Mickey Passman, second-year Northe Saunders, and third-year Nick Ligato each tallied a first place finish. In addition, fourth-year men's captain Jeremy Lankford won the 200 yard individual medley and the 200 yard backstroke. First-year Erin Lyons captured a victory in the 1,000 yard freestyle, while fellow freshmen Debora Ayoub and Emily Testa each won two individual events.
Chicago ended the meet on a high note, with the men's and women's 400 yard freestyle relay teams placing first. The men's relay, composed of Lankford, first-year Dennis Connolly, Ligato, and Saunders posted a time of 3:25.46. Finishing in 4:02.00 was the women's relay of Lyons, Ayoub, Apuzzo, and Testa.
A number of 1-2-3 finishes characterized the Benedictine meet the next day as the men won 96-41 and the women won 94-64.
"There are few opportunities to rest because the meets are run very quickly, and a lot of people had not completely recovered from racing the evening before," said Apuzzo. Apuzzo took the win in the 1,000 yard freestyle and Ayoub in the 100 yard butterfly. Lyons and Tessa each won three of their events. The men's squad featured two first-place finishes each from Pressman and Saunders; Ligato and Lankford finished first in the 100 yard freestyle and 100 yard backstroke, respectively.
Apuzzo placed the Maroons' finish in perspective. "Even though in the past we have been able to match Benedictine talent-wise, they have been able to beat us with sheer number of people. To come away with a win for both the men and women was tremendous."
Apuzzo cites IIT's decision not to score diving as being beneficial for their record and game. "We are usually automatically down by a hundred points when we enter a meet, and it is difficult to recover from that deficit. Being able to focus on our swimming and compete against an evenly matched team was a nice way to start off the season." Overall on the weekend, O'Connor was pleased: "We swam well. There are things we need to work on and it's good to see where we are at."
The biggest challenge the swim team faced this past weekend is one they will face throughout the course of their season: their size. "We knew this at the beginning of the season. We don't have a lot of depth. We trade off quantity for quality," stated O'Connor. Another factor is the team's age. Over half of this year's team are first-years. "It's a very young team, but very solid. For most, this was their first college meet. It's good to get into the first meet and be successful," said O'Connor.
The Maroons will see action next at the Washington University Invite in St. Louis the weekend of November 17. There will be four other midwest schools attending the two-and-a-half day meet. This meet will host all the NCAA swim events, so the Maroons will not have to worry about filling lanes in otherwise empty races to earn points. O'Connor sees the invite as a helpful challenge for her swimmers. "This is a good opportunity for the best competition before Christmas. Doing well by points will be hard with a small team and without divers, but swimming well matters more than anything."