Homestand at Hamilton Pool yields mixed results

First-year Matt Barickman and other competitors push off at the start the 100 backstroke. Ethan Chan / The Tufts Daily

The men’s swimming team restarted its 2014-2015 campaign this weekend with its first and only homestand of the season. Tufts lost 199-101 against a strong MIT team on Saturday, then defeated Wesleyan 174-108 on Sunday before dropping the final meet to Boston College by a score of 204.5-163.5 on Tuesday night.

As a Div. I program, Boston College has consistently provided Tufts with a constructive midseason challenge as the team gears up for the NESCAC championships, typically held in late February. 

Despite the caliber of their competition, the Jumbos remained undaunted and came out strong in the early events, with first-year Zachary Wallace and junior tri-captain Michael Winget nabbing two wins each. Wallace took first in the 400 individual medley (IM) and 200 IM, while Winget claimed the 100 and the 50 backstroke for Tufts.

Junior tri-captain Cam Simko also placed first in the 500 freestyle, bringing Tufts’ win total to five on the night. Simko went on to take second in the 200 free and third in the 100 free as well.

Tufts’ other top point-scorers at the meet included first-year Morgan Ciliv, who finished second in the 100 and 200 breaststrokes, and sophomore diver Matt Rohrer, who finished second in the one- and three-meter dives. Junior Anthony DeBenedetto finished second in the 200 butterfly and third in the 500 freestyle, while sophomore Jasper Du took second in the 50 breaststroke and third in the 100 breast behind Ciliv.

Sunday’s meet proved to be a much different matchup. Tufts rebounded from its loss to MIT on Saturday with a dominating performance against NESCAC foe Wesleyan on Sunday.

Although the Cardinals have generally been near the bottom of the conference in recent years, this meet gave the Jumbo swimmers a chance to try their “off events” in a less competitive meet and bolstered their confidence as they prepare for next month’s NESCAC championships.

Eight different Jumbos took first in at least one event as the team won nine of the first 10 events to open the meet before “exhibitioning” — ceding all points while still competing — in the remaining events.

Simko and Du led the team against the Cardinals, with Simko winning the 50 and 1,000 freestyles and Du winning the 200 breaststroke as well as swimming the breaststroke leg of the winning 200 medley relay team.

Other wins for Tufts included Winget’s in the 100 backstroke, sophomore Luca Guadagno’s in the 100 freestyle, Wallace’s in the 200 backstroke and DeBenedetto’s in the 200 free. To round out the Jumbos’ victories, Rohrer handily won both the diving events. 

Adding to the impressive nature of the performance, the Jumbos displayed significant depth, adding second and third place finishes in a number of the events that they won. First-years Michael Brienza and Lorenzo Lau notched runner-up finishes, as did classmate James McElduff, who was a consistent point-scorer over the three meets, with several second place finishes across various freestyle events.

The MIT meet on Saturday did not result in a win for Tufts, but gave it yet another opportunity to challenge itself against top competition. Like the BC meet, the MIT-Tufts meet has been a good benchmark for Tufts to gauge the success of their training as they head into the latter part of their season. And considering MIT’s recent No. 4 ranking in Div. III swimming, a 199-101 score is by no means cause for alarm.

“We had just come back from a pretty tough training trip [as we went into Saturday’s meet], so everyone was pretty tired,” Du said. “But once we got on deck, I’m proud of how we showed a lot of energy and swam hard in the pool and cheered our teammates on just as hard.”

The team went into the weekend having just returned from its annual winter break training trip, where swimmers had been mostly focusing on their primary events, the ones in which they will be competing at NESCACs.

Saturday’s meet also featured double wins for Simko and Rohrer, with Simko taking first in his main events — the 200 and 500-meter freestyles — and Rohrer winning off both boards.

Other notable performances included second place finishes from first-years Panos Skoufalos in the 50 free, McElduff in the 1,000 free, and Aaron Idelson in the one hundred-meter event.

The fact that so many of the Jumbos’ top performances throughout the three meets came from freshmen is not only a positive indication of the team’s future prospects but a sign that they are improving on a sharp curve from the beginning of the season.

“The freshmen are a vital part of the team both in and out of the pool,” Simko said. “The freshman class comes in every year starry-eyed and hungry to compete. The class of 2018 in particular has pushed the older classes to work hard and kept up a competitive team atmosphere. 10 of them just got named a part of our NESCAC team, so obviously they’ll have a big part in how we finish the season.”

Tufts also celebrated Senior Day on Saturday against MIT, honoring the team’s three seniors: tri-captain Mike Napolitano, Sean Gunn, and Josh Norville.

Just under a month remains until NESCACs, and there are only two meets left for the team to hone its stroke. According to Du, the team has been preparing by fine-tuning its racing in recent workouts.

“I’ve just been working on endurance and making sure my stroke count is correct each lap,” said Du. “So I’m just working on all the little things. Right now [we’re doing] all the technical work and all the race strategy, especially with pacing.”

Tufts will not return to Hamilton Pool for any meets for the duration of the season, but the team will be in action at Wheaton College this Saturday.