SPORTS

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January 29, 2008

Men's swimming drowns ranked teams, women split

Invigorated by a streak of victories, men’s and women’s swimming conquered yet another pair of nationally ranked schools this weekend at Myers-McLorraine, preserving the reputation they’ve built up over the season.

In one of its best performances of the season, Chicago continued to break records, break expectations, and break the NCAA and UAA conferences. Saturday’s dual meet against Carthage and Wheaton saw two stories of victory. The men’s squad dominated the competition, crushing 25th-ranked Wheaton 223–61 and delivering a similar defeat to 10th-ranked Carthage, 180–104. On the women’s side, the Maroons beat out 23rd-ranked Carthage 185–100, but fell to eighth-ranked Wheaton by a mere 148–139.

Dominating the two schools secured the 24th-ranked men’s team a whopping 7–0 dual meet record for the season. All four nationally ranked teams that have faced the Maroons have been soundly defeated. Following strong behind, the women’s team holds a record of 6–2, toppling their first nationally ranked team on Saturday.

Chicago’s depth continued to carry the team this weekend. With a perfect balance of experienced veterans and talented first-years, both teams have been able to consistently smash the competition.

“Our performance this year really has been a total team effort on both sides,” head coach Jason Weber said. “Other teams overlook us; we have quality depth that is tough to overcome even if the other team is winning events.”

Saturday was characterized by strong individual performances by the same big swimmers. Third-years Shane Carlson and Alex Stabell have been taking gold throughout the season, and this weekend was no exception. Carlson continued his breaststroke and individual medley dominance, taking first in both the 100-yard breast (1:00.79) and the 200-yard IM (1:58.60), as well as the 500-yard free. This weekend’s times left no doubts about the versatility of the UAA athlete of the week.

“Carlson has been much more consistent this year in his training. I’m expecting him to make a big impact at UAAs and be close to NCAA qualifying times,” Weber said.

Accompanying his teammate to victory, Stabell swam a 1:57.78 to take top honors in the 100-yard butterfly. His presence on the victorious 200-yard medley and 400-yard free relays set Chicago further ahead of the competition.

Sweeping the scoreboard alongside Carlson and Stabell, first-year Ellie Elgamal continued to rack up even more record-breaking performances. Her 200-yard butterfly time of 2:08.42 set a school record and puts her in serious considerations for the NCAA Championships approaching in March. Racing past the competition in the 100-yard butterfly and 200-yard IM, Elgamal is living up to her reputation as a contender for UAA and NCAA honors.

“I knew Elgamal was going to be one of the best swimmers in the country. She’s been a big addition to our team and her dedication and positive attitude is really a reason why she is doing so well,” Weber said.

Despite the standout performances, no single swimmer carried the day for the Maroons. The full roster of both teams was responsible for snatching victories across the board. Fourth-year Zach Ergish had an impressive finish in the 200-yard breast (2:10.40), barely losing in the last leg to Carthage third-year Stephen Schranck (2:10.23).

New talents continued to help carry the team, with first-years Sebastien VanGelder and James Schlabach tallying up more Chicago wins. VanGelder took first in the 100-yard back (55.04), and was barely beaten by Red Men first-year Kyle Drake in the 200-yard back. Schlabach touched out Ergish in the 200-yard free (1:45.95), and took second in the 100-yard free.

Women’s swimming performed similarly, with depth again defining the team’s performance. Beating out older opponents, first-year Lauren Battaglia stood alongside Elgamal in taking top honors in their events. Battaglia’s final time of 1:11.59 was just enough to beat out Thunder third-year Renee Shear in the 100-yard breast.

Battaglia was not alone, with first-year Charlotte Richman seizing first in the 100-yard back with a 1:04.27, followed closely by second-year Alicia Bushman’s 1:05.32. Despite their solid achievement against Carthage, the women’s team was unable to pull it out over the speedy Wheaton squad.

“The ladies could have pulled off the upset over Wheaton if we had performed a little better in a few key events,” Weber said. “Still, the freshman class has made a big impact on the women’s team, and this meet really showed it.”

Historically, the Maroons have always been trounced by the Wheaton and Carthage squads. Last year was the first time that the men’s group beat out the Thunder, while Carthage was one of their only two losses. Faring no better were the women, who had never beaten either team until this year.

“I was expecting the men’s meet to be much closer. I didn’t think the women would be so close to beating Wheaton, and [I] thought Carthage would give them a far closer meet. They exceeded my expectations a little,” Weber said.

Approaching next on Chicago’s schedule is DePauw University, boasting a ninth-ranked men’s team and a 14th-ranked women’s. With their successes fresh in mind, the Maroons seem poised to deliver yet another upset and take down the Tigers.

Win or lose, swimming’s meet against DePauw will mark the last one of the season before the UAA championships February 21, and the NCAAs in mid March. On the final lap of the season, the team prepares itself to face the juggernauts of ninth-ranked NYU, sixth-ranked Washington University, and fourth-ranked Emory.

“With all these victories, it’s important for our team to stay grounded. The teams we will face at UAAs are much better than any other team we’ve faced so far,” Weber said. “We’ve also got one more meet to go before then, and DePauw should be the toughest opponent for both teams so far.”