With both teams out of competition since November 18 but fresh from a winter training trip to Sarasota, Florida, there were a lot of questions hanging over what kind of times men’s and women’s swimming would turn in when they restarted their season hosting the Chicago Invite Saturday. After the long break from Myers-McLorraine, it looks like the Maroons are still on their way to some breakthrough performances at UAAs and NCAAs.
Displaying their talent and versatility, both squads garnered second-place finishes amidst a wide field of competitors. Facing Olivet, Illinois Tech, Principia, Dupage, and Benedictine, the 22nd-ranked men sank most of their competitors by massive margins, but had to settle for silver as 10th-ranked Olivet edged them 1095–1049. Chicago’s women met the same fate, losing out on the top slot to 23rd-ranked Olivet 1010–896 after outclassing the rest of the competition and rewriting the record books in three events.
“The team performance exceeded my expectations,” head coach Jason Weber said. “I thought they were all going to be a little rusty after being out of competition, but everyone looked very sharp and most swimmers posted in-season or lifetime bests in their races. I did expect some fast times, but not as many as were posted and especially not as fast.”
A big part of the South Siders’ success in their return this weekend came from shaking things up on the lineup, a move that’s already showing signs of paying off. Swimmers from both teams clocked personal records after making the switch.
“Putting some people in off-events seemed to work out well,” said Weber. [Second-year] Rachel Zarnke went a PR in the 500 free and got third, [first-year] Kathie Ang went a PR in the 200 back, [first-year] Cassie O’Neill went a PR in the 400 IM and won. [Second-year] Shane Carlson, who swam the 200 IM the first session instead of his normal event, almost broke the school record.”
In just the first time this year when they haven’t managed to triumph, the men placed first in 9 of 20 events, capturing three relays and six individuals titles.
Claiming a hat trick of firsts for the Maroons, first-year Brian Young led the 200-yard medley relay (1:38.75) before snagging the titles in the 100- and 200-yard backstrokes (54.90 and 2:00.34). Young’s medley teammate, fourth-year James Viccaro, also topped the 400-yard freestyle relay (3:14.40) and the 50-yard free (21.80).
Completing the trio of Maroons to win in three events, third-year Andrew Kent claimed the 400 and 800 freestyle relays along with the individual 200 free (1:47.21).
Also grabbing individual firsts were second-year Shane Carlson, who won the mile free (16:37.28), and third-year Chris Whaley, who took the 200-yard butterfly (1:58.67).
The men’s strong showing at the Invite and in the fall season has them sitting comfortably in the national rankings for one of the first times in recent memory.
“The men’s national ranking means quite a bit to the team,” said Weber, “especially to the upper classmen who were around when the team was the laughingstock of the league. Every one swimmer on the team takes pride in the ranking; it somewhat validates all the hard work they put in the pool and with recruiting.”
On the women’s side, things went just as smoothly, as the Maroons shattered school records, finished first in six events and foreshadowed what should be a promising spring for a team seeking to rise from the bottom of the UAA barrel.
In the sure highlight of the women’s performance, the all-first-year 400-medley relay team of Alicia Bushman, O’Neill, Jeannette Daly, and Ang stole the gold from higher-seeded
Olivet and set a new school record with a time of 4:15.47.
“Being on the relay that broke the record was an amazing accomplishment,” said Ang, “especially since all four of us are freshmen. Breaking the record was an even greater accomplishment since we broke it before UAAs—untapered—meaning that by UAAs we hope to break it again.”
Also smashing records, fourth-year Ashley Bourne put up new school bests in the 1-and 3-meter diving events, taking fourth and second respectively.
Other individual wins came from O’Neill in the 200 and 400 individual medleys (2:16.34, 4:48.24) and the 200 breast stroke (2:28.91), and second-year Rachel Zarnke in the 100 and 200 butterfly (1:03.28, 2:17.64).
“The teams’ performances were better than I thought it would be,” said Weber. “It definitely has boosted the confidence of everyone and suggests that we should have a strong performance at our conference championships.
“Both teams are definitely in a rhythm and should compete very well the next couple weekends.”