Looking for respect as they dove into their first meet of 2008 Saturday, the 24th-ranked Maroon men were gunning for an upset of 12th-ranked Kalamazoo, while the women sought a statement meet to support their case for entering the coaches’ poll. With big wins on both sides, the squads kicked off the year exactly as they wanted to.
Heading into the regional dual meet, Chicago’s men were confident in their ability to pull off an upset despite the Hornets’ higher ranking.
“We were confident going into the meet. Despite the rankings, we knew we were the better team. We went into the meet determined to prove ourselves, determined to earn our top-25 ranking in the nation, and I think we did well more than that,” said fourth-year Andrew Kent, co-captain of the men’s team.
Winning their first three events, the men met Kent’s expectations, while their female counterparts sprinted to a big lead by winning their first 11 events and taking Kalamazoo out of the meet early, breaking records in the process. The remarkable efforts put out by the team resulted in several season-best times, surprising head coach Jason Weber.
“The team did much better than I expected, because we had a really, really tough week. We had just come off our winter training trip, which was two weeks of really tough training, so I wasn’t expecting people to feel that great. I didn’t think that we would beat them by that much. I thought it was going to be close on both sides,” Weber said.
A tired men’s team dropped seven of their last 10 events, but Chicago’s dominance on both sides was enough for a pair of anticlimactic wins. While the men held off the Hornets 153–131, the women crushed Kalamazoo 175–108.
The signs of fatigue didn’t concern Weber. “It’s going to be about the rest that they get at the end of the season. We have a few more weeks of hard training then we are going to start coming down in the number of yards [swam in practice] and the overall intensity, and by the time conference meet rolls around they would be fully rested and should be able to swim 5, 6, 7 events at their best without tiring or dying at the end of the meet or races,” he explained.
Following their upset win, the men will likely creep up in the rankings, while the women could sneak into the top 25 for the first time this season.
“The win is a confidence boost going into this quarter because the teams we are swimming this quarter are pretty good. They are all ranked teams and have some excellent swimmers. It is nice to start off on a high note. I think we will also get a little bit of respect from other teams in DIII,” Weber said.
Putting out the best effort on the day, first-year Ellie Elgamal broke her own school record in the 100 butterfly with a time of 57.84 seconds. Elgamal also grabbed first place in the 200-yard freestyle, and 200-yard butterfly, and was part of the foursome that won the 200-yard medley relay. This wasn’t the first time Elgamal has bested her own high marks.
“I was very surprised about breaking the school record on Saturday. I didn’t think I would go that fast. My teammates have really pushed me to swim fast in practice and in meets, and it’s my friends on the team that really motivate me,” she said.
Other stellar performers were first-years Phillip Bartels and Charlotte Richman. Bartels took first place in the 1000-yard freestyle and the 500-yard freestyle, while Richman grabbed gold in the 100-yard freestyle and the 100-yard backstroke.
Hosting the Chicago Invitational this weekend, Weber expects to swim his athletes in off-events. However, in the following weeks, the Maroons get another shot at sinking top-25 teams on both sides of the gender divide as Carthage and Wheaton roll into Ratner.