Tufts women’s swimming and diving competed at this weekend’s NESCAC Championships at Middlebury College, finishing seventh overall for the third year in a row. That performance, though a disappointment for a team that had high hopes to improve its standing in the conference at this year’s championships, ends a 2015-2016 campaign that saw the Jumbos have their best regular season since 2011-2012.
The 11-team meet was won by perennial champion Williams, which finished with 2,045 points. Amherst, Bates, Middlebury and Conn. College rounded out the top five for a déjà vu finish that almost exactly paralleled the results of recent years.
The weekend was in general a success for Tufts, with perhaps the only low point being the team bus breaking down on the way back to campus. In the pool, however, the results were much more promising. Junior Amanda Gottschalk and first-years Colleen Doolan and Caroline McCormick led the team with a trifecta of record-breaking finishes.
Gottschalk’s 2:19.05 time in the 200 breaststroke was second at the meet and her 4:29.79 time in the 400 individual medley final was good for fourth place. Both performances set Tufts records en route to Gottschalk’s receiving All-Conference accolades.
“I was very excited with both my own swims and our team’s performance,” said Gottschalk. “Throughout the entire weekend, we kept the energy high. There were so many standout swims, and I was impressed with the number of ladies that were able to qualify for the higher final heats.”
Doolan also earned second place, All-Conference accolades and another Jumbo record as she finished the 200 butterfly with a time of 2:03.77. McCormick added to the coup with two new Tufts record-breaking swims in the backstroke. Her 26.86 time for fourth place in the 50 backstroke and her 58.13 time in the 100 backstroke both broke four-year-old records.
Coach Adam Hoyt’s gamble in naming 12 first-years to the team’s 22-woman NESCAC roster and his heavy reliance on youth seemed to work out, with these two first-years putting up team-leading performances. Still, the team’s senior leadership played an important role at the meet, as seniors Maddie Golison and tri-captains Sarah Mahoney, Randi Katz and Molly Levene brought experience to the young roster.
“Over the course of the weekend a lot of the leadership came from our four seniors, who each swam so well this weekend and I think, in the end, were very happy to end the season on such a high note,” first-year Maddie Maider said. “The seniors are such an important part of our team because they are always there to pump up team members, cheer outrageously for us when we swim and calm us down when the nerves start to take their toll.”
Mahoney was likewise equally impressed with her own team’s wealth of first-year talent as well as the state of NESCAC swimming.
“Unlike years before, I was moved from the distance events into the sprint events,” Mahoney said. “While I swam well and am very happy with new personal best times, it was difficult to compete with freshmen in the league and make it back to finals at night. The conference meet was by far the fastest I have seen at my time in Tufts. Times that used to place individuals 10th or 12th barely made finals [24th place] this year.”
This season was a tumultuous one for Mahoney in particular. She suffered an injury last fall that cost her five weeks of training time, which, for a distance swimmer, was a serious setback. Nevertheless, Mahoney was able to rehab and train well during the winter break training trip in Puerto Rico and during the following five weeks prior to the team’s competition at the NESCACs. Mahoney, along with Doolan, and sophomore Jess Lee and junior Sophia Lin, formed the 200 freestyle relay team that finished eighth in the meet with a time of 1:37.39.
“I’m very impressed with how our team performed,” Lin said. “This year especially, we have a very young team. Swim meets in general are very grueling, as they span over a series of sessions and days. It’s very impressive to see our team rally and keep fighting up until the last day. In fact, I felt that some of our best performances were actually on Sunday night, and it was incredible to see our team cheer each other on and break a series of school records.”
Though the Jumbos went into the meet probably hoping for a better result than what they ended up with after this exciting season, the team is still pleased with its individual performances.
“My personal favorite moment of the meet was when Maddie Golison and I tied for the 24th spot in the 200 fly,” Maider said. “We trained all semester together, and it was so rewarding to have a season best with one of my training buddies.”
Maider ended up winning the swim-off with Golison and completed her third 200 fly of the day at finals, finishing 20th. Other stand-out performances include junior Kylie Rieman’s two top eight finishes and 3-meter dives, Lee’s 50 butterfly and junior Sarah Elghor’s 50, 100 and 200 meter breaststrokes.
Looking forward, the team will wait and see if any of its NCAA B cut times qualify for the NCAA Championships next month. Doolan and Gottschalk both swam under the NCAA invite time from 2015, and the team is very hopeful that the two of them will be invited to Greensboro, North Carolina for the national championship meet this year.
“Next year, I hope that our incoming freshmen class can challenge some of the best from Bates, Williams and Middlebury,” Mahoney said. “Placing high in the sprint events is incredibly difficult given the caliber of talent from other schools, but hopefully some of our incoming recruits are ready to fill those positions.”
“With such a young team, I am very optimistic about the future and believe that in the coming years we will be able to improve upon our seventh place finish,” concluded Gottschalk.
Reiman, the team’s top diver, returns to the pool the weekend after next for the NCAA Zone Diving Qualifiers at Wellesley, where she hopes to qualify for the first time for the NCAA Championship meet herself.