In their first meet of the season on Nov. 21, Tufts comfortably defeated NESCAC rivals Middlebury and Conn. College at Middlebury. Multiple victories by senior tri-captain Michael Winget and a strong showing from first-year Brandon Jinn spurred the team to victory with winning scores of 159 and 176 points versus Conn. College’s 152 and Middlebury’s 112, respectively.
The Jumbos competed in 14 different races, taking first place in eight of them. The day began with a strong win in the 200-yard medley relay by Winget, first-year Kingsley Bowen, senior tri-captain Cam Simko and sophomore Morgan Ciliv with a comfortable margin of 1.94 seconds. Although Bowen is the only first-year on the relay team, he has done well in these high-pressure situations. Bowen swam his leg of the race in 22.52 seconds, nearly a full second faster than the second-place Conn. College first-year fly swimmer Marc Klepacki.
A major highlight of the day was Winget’s pair of wins in the 100-yard backstroke and 200-yard backstroke. Bowen claimed a close second place in the 100-yard backstroke and took a first prize of his own in the 100-yard freestyle. Because of his strong wins, Winget was awarded the NESCAC first male Performer of the Week award. Winget and Bowen’s times of 50.73 seconds and 51.83 seconds, respectively, bested the third-place swimmer by a large margin, with Conn. College’s Michael Fothergill, a junior, finishing with a time of 54.04.
“Winget is an amazing talent in the pool, and if I had to lose to anyone, I’d love it to be Winget, as long as I knew I made him really have to work for the win,” Bowen said. “I think we have a healthy, competitive relationship, especially because our best times in two events (the 100 fly and 100 back) are separated by a total of .07 seconds.”
As the season progresses, Bowen predicts that their relationship will only become more competitive, with the outcome of both swimmers being able to reduce their times.
Jinn won both long-distance freestyle races. The 500-yard freestyle was a very close finish, with only 63 milliseconds separating Jinn and second-place finisher, Conn. College sophomore Alan Pite.
“My races were a lot closer than you usually see in distance events,” Jinn said. “Being neck and neck with someone for a race that lasts 10 minutes is intense, and I’m just glad I got my hand on the wall first and got those points for the team.”
Winget was particularly proud of Jinn, citing his exceptional performances as the highlight of the day.
The victory over the Camels was a huge boost for the Jumbos, who have come fourth to the Camels’ third the past three years at the NESCAC championship. Going into this tri-meet, the team knew that it needed to push itself in order to take the win, and it clearly succeeded.
“The team got really fired up for our tri-meet vs. Middlebury and Conn.,” Simko said. “It was our first [head-to-head] meet of the season and the first time we really got to compete for Tufts. Conn. has always been a rival, so I know that got us pumped to do well — this [was] clear from the very first 200 medley relay.”
In many races, the Jumbos didn’t come in first, but still finished second and third. In the 200-yard freestyle, Simko and sophomore Zachary Wallace came close behind first-place Conn. College sophomore George Tilneac, with only 52 milliseconds separating Simko and Tilneac. Wallace was frustrated with second place against Conn. College’s Pite in the 200-yard individual medley, trailing by less than a second.
“Both Middlebury and Connecticut College are extremely talented teams,” Winget said. “The meet doesn’t really have large implications on NESCACs, but we will go into NESCACs knowing we can beat those teams, but we still have a lot of work to do between now and then.”
In the diving competition, sophomore Aaron Idelson came in second in the 1-meter competition and first in the 3-meter competition.
The Jumbos will be gearing up for the MIT Winter Invitational next weekend.
“MIT is a very interesting meet because we’ll be going up against some of the top [Div. III] teams in the nation, and it is a trials / finals meet,” Simko said. “It will be great practice for our championships. I’m less concerned about how we place at MIT but [more concerned] about what ridiculous times guys can pull out before we’re down for the semester.”
Tufts will be competing against teams such as Bowdoin, Keene State and Wheaton.