It looked like the tide had turned on Chicago swimming when the squads returned from winter break, but a solid effort against a highly competitive opponent showed the Maroons are still on course to meet their UAA and NCAA goals.
Though this weekend’s dual meet against DePauw ended in a heartbreaking 150–144 loss for the men and a 160–136 final tally for the women, the South Siders still hammered out one of the season’s fastest meets and crushed three school records in the process.
Hoping to get in the groove with UAAs around the corner, head coach Jason Weber placed swimmers in their strongest events, a luxury the squad couldn’t afford at their last meet with its third-years at “Taking the Next Step.” While the lineup didn’t pull out a win, the South Siders still showed signs that they’re ready for their upcoming final tests.
“I definitely thought the guys could do it. I thought the women weren’t going to have much of a chance. But they actually swam really well and gave DePauw a run for their money,” Weber said.
Falling during the odd tapering point of the season, Saturday’s outing could have seen a big drop in performances as swimmers deal with the effects of less intense training in preparation for the postseason. Instead of hitting a slide in their contest with the Tigers, a trio of Maroons record breakers and several others notched first-place finishes.
“It turned out to be one of our fastest meets,” Weber said.
Offering proof of the Maroons’ speed in the lanes, second-year Alex Stabell set a new standard in the 100-yard fly (52.79) to take silver. He was .10 seconds short of knocking off third-year Hiro Hayashi’s time in the event last week at Carthage but didn’t have the competition to drive past his teammate. With DePauw bringing an intense race to Ratner, Stabell had just what he needed to be pushed over the edge.
“Alex was trying to take it out and see what he could do, so I’m sure the adrenaline was flowing a little bit more,” Weber said.
With a strong fly squad, Stabell’s record probably won’t stand for long. He has another swing at bringing the time down further. While Hayashi has a shot at reclaiming top honors, third-year Jason Azares could take a crack at it.
Rounding out Saturday’s most notable performances for the men were the usual leaders of the pack and potential national qualifiers. Second-year Shane Carlson took the gold in the 1,000-yard freestyle (10:00.91) and the 500-yard free (4:49.10) while Azares, the 200-yard medley relay team, first-year Brian Young, fourth-year Pat Seastedt, and third-year Zach Ergish all claimed top honors.
In addition to some surprises on the stop clock, Saturday highlighted efforts to turn around a long overshadowed segment of the program. Third-year Paul Accardi and fourth-year Ashley Bourne erased old marks in the one-meter dive, signaling diving’s rise from the ashes while earning major points for their squads.
Accardi won his six dives off the one-meter board with 135.05 points, which earned him a school record and third place in the event. A newcomer to the sport, the Bristol, PA native arrived in Hyde Park in the fall with no experience but quickly found his form and was soon jumping confidently into the deep end.
“I think he’s going to continue to break many more records because—more so on the men’s side—diving has been nonexistent at Chicago,” Weber said.
For the women, Bourne managed her second record-busting outing of the season while winning both of her events on the day with a total of six dives. The veteran raised the bar in the one-meter board, posting a score of 202.80 to go along with her new record setting performances at the Chicago Invite two weeks ago.
Continuing the pace for the women swimmers, first-year powerhouse Cassie O’Neill came in ahead of the competition in the 100-yard breastroke (1:10.68) and the 200-yard breastroke (2:30.05). She was joined on the top podium by third-year Ellie McNeil, first-year Jeannette Daly, and second-year Sarah Laws, who grabbed the first-place spot in the 50-yard free (25.80) and the 100-yard free (55.89).
With a week and a half to go until the Maroons go east for the grueling, three-day UAA showdown, all eyes are focused forward. While coaches will try to boost power and speed in the water and make small tweaks to the swimmers’ strokes before the league championships, this is not the time to make broad changes.
“[Saturday’s meet] was definitely a tune-up for UAAs,” Weber said. “It’s our last competition, and we wanted to make sure to do the little things right.”