November 22, 2005

Grinnell deals women’s swimming a loss in last meet of fall

They may be working towards consistency, but women’s swimming’s wild ride seems to be continuing unabated.

Coming off of their best-ever finish at the Maroon Invite, the Maroons were roughed up against Grinnell (2–0) at Ratner on Saturday, falling 136.5–78.5 to drop their dual meet record to 2–3. While the team continued to show strength and improvement across the board, it was the second time this season that they have followed up quality meet results with a dual meet loss.

Coaches and swimmers alike are trying to find the silver lining in the loss. They certainly had a few bright spots to look to. Third-year captain Katherine Yang turned in another solid performance, posting a pair of wins in the 1,000-yard (11:11.46) and 500-yard freestyle (5:25.76) events for the third time in five meets. The team’s rookies also continued to contribute for the Maroons, led by first-year Sarah Laws, who won the 50-yard freestyle with a 26.32 performance and finished just .05 seconds behind Pioneers first-year Valerie Stimac for second standing in the 100-yard free.

First-year Zoe Van Gelder set a new personal best (1:05.35) in the 100-yard butterfly, which scored a second-place finish, and her classmate Kaitlin Roche picked up second-place points in the 200-yard IM (2:25.16) and a pair of fourth-place finishes in the 100-yard breaststroke (1:19.18) and 500-yard free (5:50.20).

“I really feel like the team has already come a long way this year,” Roche said. “We have a lot of great leadership already established in the program and the younger swimmers are full of energy.”

The first-year-heavy scoresheet reflects the Maroons’ new reliance on youth. First-years like Laws, Van Gelder, Roche, and Rachel Zarnke have already become big parts of the team’s formula for success. They give the team a depth that has not been seen in Chicago women’s swimming for many, many years.

“We have someone who can place in almost every event. Some of our events have more depth than others, but our coaches have changed the line-up at a few meets to see where people can place the highest,” Roche said.

However, there are plenty of areas that still need improvement. The women lost in both relay events, the 200-yard IM and the 200-yard freestyle. They will need further progress if they intend to compete at UAAs starting February 9. The league has three nationally ranked teams, and not every team in the league is part of the poll.

The Maroons still have high hopes of improving their dual meet record, and believe that their long practice hours are starting to show dividends.

“I think that the team has performed very well at meets in comparison to previous years. For example, we were narrowly edged by Illinois Wesleyan a few weekends ago by only one point. That was something that wasn’t even a possibility when I was a freshman,” Yang said.

With their fall competitions complete, the Maroons will get the chance to have some fun in the sun before winter quarter. The team will make a winter break training trip to Fort Myers, Florida to condition and train for the second half of the season. They pick back up again at Olivet January 7, host the Chicago Invitational January 13 and 14, travel to the Wheaton Triangular January 21 and face off against DePauw at Greencastle January 28 before conference.

“We are focused on improving during the training trip, maintaining that training over winter break, and using the final meets in January to fine tune race strategies in time for UAAs in February,” Yang said.