November 1, 2005

Early victories great leap forward for women’s swimming: Sports Shorts 11/1/05

It was a disappointing start to the season for women’s swimming, which dropped their first dual meet two weeks ago to Illinois Tech by 37 points. In their second weekend, however, they kicked things off in earnest.

The team (2–1) equaled last year’s win total in just their second meet, soundly thrashing Monmouth 122–77 and pulverizing Rose-Hulman 124–28. The Maroons took advantage of their strength in freestyle swimming, as third-year star Katherine Yang led the way in the 500-yard (5:27.2) and 1,000-yard events (11:33.9), and first-year Sarah Laws hit the wall in 26.13 to take the 50-yard and in 57.57 to pace the 100-yard.

It was an uplifting day for the women’s team, which has had little overall success in recent years. But with the veteran leadership keyed by Yang and an influx of young talent, both in terms of quantity and quality, the building blocks might be in place for a leap forward for the program.

“We are very excited about this year’s team,” head coach Sheila O’Connor said. “It is very early in the season, but we can tell that we will have a much stronger squad. We will make a more realistic assessment of just how much stronger we will be early in January.”

First-year Rachel Zarnke also emerged victorious in the individual events, completing the 200-yard individual medley in a lifetime-best 2:25.84. Her classmate Zoe Van Gelder also got into the action, swimming leadoff for the first-place 400-yard freestyle relay (3:59.0) with Zarnke, Yang, and Laws. This performance epitomized the team effort that helped carry the day despite being shorthanded.

“Many swimmers were competing out of their normal events because we didn’t have a full squad at the meet,” O’Connor said. “I challenged the team to ‘rise to the occasion’ and do whatever it took to win, and all of our swimmers did this.”

“We saw marked improvements in several areas over last week, and I believe that we were more ready to be competitive than we were at the IIT meet.”

The team hopes to continue making strides in practice before their home opener against Illinois Wesleyan November 5.