This winter's sleeper teams, men's and women's swimming expected big improvements this year. But beating Wash U this early in the season, as the men did Saturday to win the seven-team Maroon Invitational, is on a completely different level.
"The swimmers had Wash U in their sights since early in the year," said men's head coach George Villarreal of the Maroons' 996.5-741.5 win. "That's precisely why we scheduled Wash U to come to this meet: I wanted the team to have an early challenge so that, when championship season comes around, the swimmers will know how to handle pressure and challenges.
"Going into the meet, I didn't think there was any chance we'd win, and I am still pleasantly surprised."
The men had an unbelievable number of top runs against top national swimmers. Fourth-year Northe Saunders, who lost to Wash U's Eric Triebe and Mike Slavik at NCAAs last season, exacted revenge, beating them in both the 100- and 200-yard freestyles. Saunders' 1:44.50 in the 200 free was a pool record by half a second.
"The pressure was on me because they had beat me last year," Saunders said. "I wanted to come back and show them that last year is in the past."
Second-year Pat Seastedt won the 100-yard breaststroke (1:01.26, to improve on his pool record) and finished third in the 200 (2:17.61). First-year Chris Whaley also set a pool record (4:27.29) a week after sitting out with an ear infection.
The incomplete women's team finished fifth out of the larger nine-team pool.
Second-year Katherine Yang and fourth-year Erin Lyons led the women. Yang finished second in the 1,650-yard freestyle (18:41.81). She also swam on the women's third-place finishing 400-yard freestyle relay team, which had its best pre-Christmas time "in years," according to women's head coach Sheila O'Connor.
Lyons added a third place in the 1,650 free (18:58.66).
Although the women have maintained a talented top of the lineup, the added depth this year has boosted the lower end.
"We worked the team very hard last week. We knew we were going to be tired for the meet, but we were able to get almost everything out faster than in the past," O'Connor said.
Men's and women's swimming hosts Grinnell Saturday at 2 p.m. in one of the season's toughest meets.