SPORTS

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November 18, 2008

Split weekend for swimming

In a split squad competition Saturday, men’s and women’s swimming matched one another with wins over Lake Forest College before losses to Grinnell, UIC, and Northwestern.

The Maroons crushed Lake Forest’s teams, with the men winning 224–46 and the women taking the meet 200–63. The victory was bittersweet, though, as Grinnell narrowly edged the Maroons 149–144 on the men’s side and 163–135 for the women.

Chicago fell to heavily favored D-I powerhouses Northwestern and UIC, a mismatch of a meet that head coach Jason Weber elected to write into the schedule to give the team’s top swimmers a chance to face excellent competition rather than to advance the Maroons’ record.

While the Maroons came home with their first losses of the year, both teams turned in quality performances in numerous events, and the women’s side saw another school record broken when first-year Laura Biery set a new mark in the 1000-yard freestyle (10:45.80).

Although Coach Weber is disappointed that the Maroons fell to Grinnell, he thinks that taking the top swimmers—11 men and 12 women—to face the Flames and Wildcats was worth the loss because it provided the team with opportunities to progress that they wouldn’t have had otherwise.

“The people I took to Northwestern are very good, but are not used to racing behind, which made it difficult for some people to stay tough mentally,” Weber said. “Going to that meet really helped them with their mental competition.”

First-year Marius Aleksa came in third in the 100-yard freestyle (48.53) and fourth-year Alex Stabell notched a runner-up performance in the 100-yard butterfly (52.57) despite illness.

For the women, second-year Ellie Elgamal, the UAA athlete of the week following her performance at last weekend’s Maroon Invitational, placed second in both the 200-yard individual medley (2:16.71) and 100-yard butterfly (57.74).

Additionally, the women’s 400-yard freestyle relay teams notched third and fourth (3:53.78 and 4:04.81, respectively), with one team composed of first-years Biery, Megan St. John, and Casey Capozzoli and fourth-year Sarah Laws, the other featuring first-years Morgan McCarty and Ellen Stoehr, second-year Sarah Wynn, and third-year Cassie ONeill, respectively. Biery earned fourth for her record-breaking 1000-yard freestyle.

Back in Chicago, the Maroons had strong performances in particular from first-years Erik Widestrom and Lelia Glass, whom Weber had debated taking to Northwestern but decided to leave home in the end to score points.

Widestrom won the 200-yard butterfly (2:02.58) and 200-yard IM (2:04.04), and came in third in the 200-yard breaststroke (2:19.82). Third-year Mark Surabian also performed well, winning the 50-yard freestyle (22.86), and placing second in both the 100-yard freestyle (50.34) and the 100-yard butterfly (55.46). Other event winners include second-year Phillip Bartels in the 1000-yard freestyle (10:50.15) and first-year Robert Vanneste in the 200-yard backstroke (2:03.59).

Glass led the women in the home triangular with three event victories: the 500-yard freestyle (5:26.00), 1,000-yard freestyle (11:01.23), and 200-yard butterfly (2:21.58). Other event winners on the women’s side include Clare Farrell in the 100-yard butterfly (1:02.84) and third-years Kathie Ang in the 100-yard backstroke (1:05.87) and Alicia Bushman in the 200-yard backstroke (2:20.88).

Saturday was the first time Weber had split the team, and he stayed in touch with assistant coaches Doug Milliken and Ellen Bator back in Chicago throughout the day. The contingent at Northwestern hoped to be back in time to cheer on their teammates at home, since they knew the score was close when they left Evanston. Unfortunately, due to traffic, they were only able to return just as the meet was finishing.

Yet the loss is not disheartening to the Maroons. “The fact that we almost beat Grinnell, who were Midwest Conference Champions, with only half our team gave our team confidence,” Weber said.

Several of the team members are concerned that this loss will affect their ranking on collegeswimming.com, which will publish its “Coaches Dual Meet Poll” team rankings soon, Weber said. This ranking does not, however, affect seeding in dual-meet championships nor the NCAA Championships, and he emphasized that losing to Grinnell is not a problem.

He is excited about the team’s next meet, in which the top swimmers will try to qualify for provisional NCAA Championship cuts.

Weber has high hopes for Stabell and fellow fourth-year Shane Carlson, along with Elgamal, Biery, and first-years Tara Levens and Megan St. John. Their training for the upcoming week will include partial rest, which should enable them to shave their times to qualify for the provisional cuts.

The seasonal training thus far, combined with this weeks’ rest, should benefit all of the team members, according to the coach.

“Everyone on the team should put up their fastest times of the season [Saturday],” Weber said, “and it should be a good way to end the fall season.”

The Maroons’ upcoming meet will be held Saturday at 1 p.m. at Lewis University.