Perfect through six dual meets and having won two invitationals, men's swimming suffered its first defeat of the season Saturday against Wheaton. Bad weather prevented the meet from happening at Carthage, as scheduled, forcing Chicago and Wheaton to compete without Carthage at Ratner instead.
Despite the close 106-99 loss, Saturday's performance demonstrated the men's extreme improvement over the course of the last year. "We swam them better than we expected in the first place," head coach George Villarreal said. "[Wheaton was] eighth at NCAAs last year, and it was closer than we've ever been. If we'd had one or two close races go in our favor, we'd have won. Everyone swam well, but it is a good lesson for what happens when they don't get fired up."
After the meet, Chicago sent the results to Carthage. The Carthage roster swam the requisite races and recorded their own times They then compared the results of the Chicago/Wheaton races with their own times, producing the results of a "double dual meet," featuring another Chicago loss (this time to Carthage), 124.5-80.5. Only the results of the Wheaton meet, however, are official.
Women's swimming also lost its meet against Wheaton, 168-36, but swam well under adverse and changing conditions. The team remained positive and upbeat despite the 11th hour changes.
Second-year distance swimmer Katherine Yang swam her season-best time in the 1000-yard freestyle (11:03.76), good enough for third place in the event. First-year sprinter Monica Buckley also performed well, earning third in the women's 50-yard free with a time of 28.15 seconds.
The women's most impressive run came in the 200-yard IM, where fourth-years Emily Testa and Erin Lyons finished second (2:23.87) and third (2:27.96), respectively. Along with Yang, Testa and Lyons have consistently been the team's point leaders.
On the men's side, fourth-year Northe Saunders continued dominating the field, winning the 100-yard freestyle in 47.83 and the 200-yard freestyle in 1:47.78. Second-year Pat Seastedt scored a win in the penultimate event, finishing first in the 200-yard breaststroke in 2:14.93.
Still, as has been the story for most of the year, the men's talented class of first-years racked up the big points that kept this meet closer than it perhaps should have been.
First-year Jason Azares won the 200-yard butterfly in 2:01.95. First-year Dan Maguire added a win in the 1000-yard freestyle with a time of 10:12.31.
Despite the loss, Chicago proved that it could compete with one of the best teams in the country. The men remained competitive until the final few events, before barely letting victory slip away.
Wheaton carries talent comparable to top UAA opponents Wash U and Carnegie, which bodes well for Chicago in the upcoming February 10-12 conference championships at Ratner.
With such a strong showing, Coach Villarreal has high hopes for the men's final leg of the season. "They showed that they can be close to one of the best team's in the nation. And if they get fired up, they can overcome even the big dogs in the UAA," he said.
As the Maroons prepare to host DePauw Saturday, the teams have entered their taper period, easing off early-season rigorous training.
Most of all, the women are prepared to take advantage of swimming at Myers-McLoraine Pool with an established and strong core of veteran swimmers.
"We are looking forward to UAA championships this year," Lyons said. "This is especially exciting for the seniors who have had to swim for two years without an on-campus facility."
Saturday's meet kicks off at 1 p.m.