February 25, 2011

Chicago teams finish top-three at UAAs

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This weekend was indeed a splashing success for men's and women's swimming and diving. Stellar performances by Chicago last weekend at the UAA Championships saw numerous records shattered and qualified six Maroons for the national NCAA meet in March.

Repeating last year’s performance at conference, the women and men finished second and third, respectively, in a meet that posted significantly faster times than in previous years. Emory won its 13th consecutive men’s and women’s titles, and Carnegie Mellon finished second in the men’s competition.

The Maroons took fewer swimmers and divers to the meet than is allowed by UAA regulations. Yet despite incomplete rosters, Chicago managed to match the teams’ top conference finish. “I was very pleased with our performance this year. The women had some amazing performances and the guys fought back from being sixth day one to almost getting second on the last day,” head coach Jason Weber said.

“This meet was much faster than ever before, especially on the women’s side, and the team standing for places second through fifth were much closer than in recent years.”

A key component of the teams’ success again this year is the consistent high placing by the divers. Second-year Becky Schmidt garnered UAA Athlete of the Week honors after winning both diving competitions for the second straight year. “I am really impressed by the increased quality of competition across the conference. On the diving side, many more divers earned national-qualifying scores than ever before,” Schmidt said. “I feel very confident that I will be returning to Nationals this year.”

This confidence is well-earned by the diver, as well as her teammates. Schmidt’s three-meter score exceeded last year’s national qualifying level by 80 points. Second-year diver Bobby Morales, competing with a torn tricep, received all-conference honors by finishing third with a new school record and national qualifying score of 463.05 points in the three-meter finals.

The divers will be joined at the national meet by up to six other swimmers. Third-year Tara Levens qualified in the 100-yard backstroke and is “on the bubble” in the 200-yard backstroke. Second-years Tatum Stewart and Kate Taylor also posted qualifying times in second-place finishes in the 200-yard butterfly and the 1650-yard freestyle, respectively. Levens, who placed in the top eight in all three of the events she entered, is looking forward to competing at the national level. “We swam very well overall. We kept good momentum going throughout the meet and only got stronger as the sessions went on,” Levens said.

“It looks like we should have a good group for NCAAs, so it’ll be exciting to see what happens there.”

First-year Eric Hallman finished in the top three in all of his events, and is also “on the bubble” for qualifying for NCAAs in the two butterfly events. Hallman broke school records in the three events he swam and won all-conference honors in these events. Fourth-year James Schlabach, third-year Nick Santora, and third-year Marius Aleska joined Hallman in an all-UAA third-place performance in the 400-yard relay in the meet’s final event.

Chicago hosts the Midwest Invitational this Friday and Saturday at the Myers-McLoraine Pool before heading to Knoxville, TN, for NCAAs March 23-26. The meet this weekend is a chance for team members to qualify for nationals in a familiar setting. Fourth-year Ed Wagner is hopeful that this will be another good weekend for the swim team. “We have several swimmers on the brink of qualifying for nationals. If it goes as well as conference, I have no doubt we will send a bigger team than ever to NCAAs.”