–The women's swimming and diving team faced off against Wheaton on Saturday, Jan. 23. Julia Press / The Tufts Daily

Strong performances set Tufts up for NESCAC Championships

A contingent of Jumbos traveled to Vermont this past weekend to compete at the Middlebury Invitational, an unscored, non-conference meet held on Friday and Saturday. Tufts faced off against swimmers from Williams, the University of Vermont and Springfield College, as well as those from the host, Middlebury. Though the lack of scoring resulted in no team winner, several Jumbos turned in excellent individual performances in their final competition of the regular season.

With the team’s roster for this month’s NESCAC Championships already cut down to 24 due to conference regulation, 12 Tufts swimmers finished their season at Middlebury. According to the team, the Jumbos’ focus this weekend was on sending off the members ending their seasons on a high note. 

“The women on the team who were shaved, tapered and wearing fast suits swam very well,” senior captain Molly Levene said. “Overall we had a lot of strong swims across the board, but the focus of the meet was on our teammates who were swimming in their final meet of the season. Together they set the tone for our championship season that will continue in two weeks at the NESCAC Championship, and the excitement and energy on deck was palpable.”

Notable performances included first-year Stephanie Miller’s 2:30.62 finish in the 200 breaststroke to take second place. Miller was also part of the 200 freestyle relay, the 50 freestyle, the 400 medley relay, and the 400 freestyle relay teams. Fellow first-year Madeline Lee also dropped significant time off of her seed times in the 100 fly, which she swam in a 59.87, and the 200 fly, which she swam in a 2:16.39. Such strong performances from the team’s underclasswomen bode well for team development next season.

Other admirable showings included senior Moira Lavelle, swimming the 200 freestyle in 2:02.01, first-year Sydney Nasson’s 4:54.79 finish in the 400 individual medley and junior Amanda Gottschalk’s 2:15.03 performance in the 200 backstroke. Junior diver Kylie Reiman also had a great day as she totaled 380.85 in the one-meter and 414.10 in the three-meter. Those finishes were both good for second place in the meet, behind only junior Ari Ross of Williams.

“Four seniors swam in their last meet this weekend – Sam Swinton, Shivani Bigler, Kat Pong and Moira Lavelle,” Leven said. “All four had fantastic performances in the pool and on the board, ending the season on a very positive note.”

Those 24 swimmers who did not shave and taper for Middlebury are now entering their final week and a half of training before the NESCAC Championships begin on Feb. 12 at Middlebury.

The championship mindset does not end there for the team’s divers, which include Reiman, who will be following up NESCACs by trying to qualify for nationals at the NCAA Diving Qualifiers on Feb. 26 at Wellesley.

“For the women who are continuing onto our conference meet, we want to build off the incredible swims this weekend and take that momentum into the NESCAC championship in two weeks,” Gottschalk said. “As our training volume decreases, we will be focusing on perfecting our starts, turns and finishes while focusing on resting and recovering,”

The team looks to finish what began as a promising season with a fittingly rewarding ending. The Jumbos kicked off the season with their best start since 2011, beating the Conn. College Camels in their season-opening tri-meet and narrowly falling to the always-strong Middlebury Panthers by two points. Following a grueling winter break training trip, Tufts bounced back to notch four wins in head-to-head meets this season, marking their best season since the 2011-2012 campaign. 

The Jumbos seem to be peaking at just the right time as they look to break into the top half of the 11 NESCAC teams at the conference championships.

“Looking forward at the next few weeks, our priority is getting rest and staying healthy,” Levene said. “With the Middlebury Invitational behind us, we are carrying forward the energy from the meet and the many fast swims from the weekend. I’m going to savor the final two weeks of my swimming career and prepare mentally and physically for our final meet of the season.”

Though they will be facing off against not only the fastest swimmers and best divers in the NESCAC but also in all of New England, the Jumbos are excited and feel prepared for the challenge that awaits in what will surely be a thrilling and busy February.

“We are very excited to see how the team will perform, and I am optimistic that we will build on the many great meets that we have had this season, while celebrating all of our accomplishments,” Levene added.

The Jumbos will try to carry over some top-notch performances from the past two weeks into this final push of their season. If the team stays healthy and performs as well as they’ve shown they can, the championship stage will likely see a number of high Tufts finishes at NESCACs and the NCAA diving qualifier.

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