The women’s swimming and diving team put together a strong performance against some of New England’s elite teams at the Middlebury Invitational this weekend.
Since each team is only allowed to bring 24 members from their respective rosters to the NESCAC Championships, which take place at Wesleyan Feb. 22-24, the non-scoring Invitational served as a stepping stone to the postseason for some and the end of the swimming season for others. The event featured some perennial swimming powerhouses such as Middlebury and Williams as well as other stiff competition, including Wheaton and MIT, giving the Jumbos a chance to test themselves against stronger competition before the upcoming conference championships.
Tufts managed to strike gold in the diving events due to the efforts of senior Kendall Swett. For the third time this season, Swett had to face off against her rival, Doria Holbrook of MIT. The last two times these two NCAA Champions met – the MIT Invitational Nov. 30 and a dual meet Jan. 26 – Swett took both 3-meter diving events, while Holbrook came away with the wins in both 1-meter diving events.
But this time around, Swett proved who will head into the postseason with the upper hand in the rivalry, capturing both the 3-meter dive with a score of 310.40 to Holbrook’s 295.05 and the 1-meter dive, edging out Holbrook 284.65-282.90.
The rivalry runs deep, and Swett expects to see Holbrook once again at the NCAA Championships in March, just as she has in years past.
“We’ve had a lot of meets against MIT this season so we are competitive,” Swett said. “We practice together everyday and have the same diving coach. We’ve been competitive since my freshman and sophomore year when we would see each other at Nationals, and it has continued after I transferred here.”
Swett considered Saturday’s performance to be a huge boost for her heading into NESCACs.
“I was just really, really happy to do as well as I did on Saturday because I’ve been trying to do that the past two meets,” Swett said. “It finally happened in the third try so I was super happy.”
It also helped that her fellow diver, sophomore Lindsay Gardel, finished strong as well, an impressive feat considering that Gardel is recovering from mononucleosis. She placed fourth with 234.75 points in the 3-meter dive and fifth with 231.95 points in the 1-meter dive.
On the swimming side, freshman Megan Kono continued her streak of impressive finishes by swimming to third place finishes in both the 400-yard individual medley (IM) and the 200-yard backstroke, clocking in with times of 4:48.93 and 2:15.94, respectively. She also placed seventh in the 200-yard IM with a time of 2:17.62, which was only five seconds behind first place finisher Lisa Cucola of Williams.
Kono’s contributions are no longer a surprise to her teammates, who expect great things from her on a regular basis.
“She has a really big positive effect in and out of the pool” senior tri-captain Claire Pigula said. “It’s really great how versatile she’s able to be. She always has a lot of pressure on her to perform really well and she’s handled that gracefully. I’m really excited to see her in NESCACs.”
Meanwhile Kendall Swett’s cousin, junior Katie Swett, had an impressive swim of her own with a third-place finish in the 1,000-yard freestyle in 11:15.12. That event displayed the Jumbos’ greatest strength – their distance swimming – as five of the eight top finishers were from Tufts. Sophomore Lyndsey York, and juniors Kayla Burke and Katie Auerbach followed Swett for the fourth, fifth and sixth place finishes, respectively.
Pigula believes that the distance swimming of the Tufts squad will propel the Jumbos far in the NESCACs.
“Our distance swimmers are really good swimmers, are fun to watch and contribute mightily to our team,” she said. “I do think our distance club is going to be the big difference between us and other teams. We have a lot of distance swimmers who turn in really good times for us.”
As the participants start their own shaving and tapering process, the Jumbos will work to swim the best they possibly can for the last time together as a team before heading to Wesleyan in two weeks. It will be an uphill struggle, though, considering the competition they will face. Two teams the Jumbos are particularly looking forward to seeing are Colby and Conn. College, both NESCAC rivals whom they have yet to face this season.
“The battle for fourth place will be tight between Colby, Tufts and Conn College,” coach Nancy Bigelow said. “It’s important that everyone has their best performance two weekends from now.”