Jumbos’ season focused on strengthening young roster

The Jumbos ended their season in seventh place in the very competitive NESCAC. Caroline Ambros / The Tufts Daily

For the women’s swimming and diving team, the 2014-2015 season was a transition year focused on integrating underclassmen into a youthful roster. The Jumbos developed their talent as the season progressed, gaining confidence and experience with each meet and evolving into a much stronger team by the season’s end.

“I’m proud of the improvements we made this year,” sophomore Amanda Gottschalk said. “We scored more points at the NESCAC championship and bettered our dual-meet record from last year. We came into the season focusing our competitive spirit and I think we succeeded in being a more focused team … Furthermore, I am so impressed with how we came together as a team throughout difficult practices and challenging meets.”

Junior Sarah Mahoney echoed those sentiments, emphasizing the team’s outstanding preparation and individual improvement.

“I am so proud of every lap we swam and every set we conquered,” Mahoney said. “We found success in each other, and we got stronger every time we cheered together, pushed through practice or won a meet.”

It appeared Tufts had a long way to go after dropping both matches of its season-opening tri-meet at Middlebury on Nov. 22. The Jumbos did win three events, however: first-years Anna Kimura and Kelsey Gallagher won the 100 butterfly and 200 backstroke, respectively. Sophomore diver Kylie Reiman won the three-meter and narrowly lost the one-meter by 1.05 points.

In its final competition of the fall semester two weeks later, the team finished fifth at the MIT Invitational, beating out Harvard, Wheaton and Bowdoin. The Jumbos scored eight top-eight finishes overall at the meet, including four on the final day of the meet to vault from seventh place to fifth.

Following a training trip to Puerto Rico over winter break, they returned in significantly better shape — and it showed in the pool. Tufts notched a pair of wins in dual-meets, beating Wesleyan 176-115 on Jan. 18 and topping Wheaton 158-138 six days later. Gottschalk pointed to that training trip as a turning point in the season.

“One moment that stood out to me was our last practice of training trip,” Gottschalk recalled. “As everyone cheered on whoever was swimming their final laps, it really became evident how much camaraderie we have and how much our team supports one another.”

That camaraderie was evident when the team celebrated Senior Day on Jan. 17, its first meet of the winter semester. Though Tufts fell to MIT 219-74, the final score did not diminish the achievements of the team’s five seniors.

“I would have to say that I was very proud of my fellow seniors this year,” senior tri-captain Amanda Wachenfeld said. “They all worked really hard and had amazing final seasons. It was an honor swimming with them for four years, and I really loved watching all of them succeed this season.”

The Jumbos concluded their regular season with the Middlebury Invitational — a non-scoring event — from Jan. 30-31. At the NESCAC Championships two weeks later, Tufts came in seventh as Kimura broke the school record in the 200 breaststroke. Kimura finished the event in 2:21.94 to eclipse Jenny Hu’s mark of 2:22.05 set last year. Sophomore diver Kylie Reiman also stood out, taking fourth place in the one-meter and finishing sixth in the three-meter.

Reiman went on to compete in the NCAA Zone Diving Qualifier at Springfield College from Feb. 27-28. The sophomore performed a full 11-dive list each day, finishing 25th out of 28 in the one-meter on day one and 22nd out of 26 in the three-meter on day two. Maura Sticco, a first-year from Wellesley College, won both events.

While coach Nancy Bigelow would have liked to have seen Tufts perform better in the first half of its season, she was nevertheless impressed by the team’s strong finishing act.

“Everyone performed so well at our end-of-season shave and taper meets,” Bigelow said. “The Midd Invite and NESCACs were the team’s proudest accomplishments this year. Across the board, everyone did an excellent job.”

Bigelow hopes to see this year’s crop of first-years have an even greater impact next year. Based on the work ethic and team spirit senior tri-captain Kathryn Coniglio saw from them this year, she believes the Jumbos have a bright future ahead of them.

“I am extremely grateful for an unbelievable [first-year] class,” Coniglio said. “I think we owe a lot of our successes from this past season to their overall dedication and commitment to the team … Because we had such a small senior class this year, the [first-years] had to step up quickly, and they really delivered.”

Mahoney was also impressed by the first-years and expects them to be the backbone of next year’s team.

“Every year brings a new group of girls that allows Tufts Swimming to grow and change,” Mahoney said. “This year we had a fantastic [first-year] class. Their energy and ambition was an invaluable addition to the team, and we look forward to getting back to the top of the NESCAC in the coming 2015-2016 season.”


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