Men’s swimming and diving: Hard work and new staff push Tufts past Coast Guard, Middlebury

Junior Kingsley Bowen competes swims butterfly in a meet on Tufts Senior Day against MIT on Jan. 15. (Courtesy Dave DeCortin)

The weekend of Nov. 18, the Jumbos made their debut in the pool with back-to-back wins against the Coast Guard Academy (170–126) at home on Saturday and away at Middlebury (175–100) on Sunday.

Against the Coast Guard Academy, Tufts tapped the wall first in nine out of the 16 races and took down three Hamilton Pool records: junior Kingsley Bowen won the 100-yard backstroke by more than three seconds at 50.54, breaking his own Hamilton Pool record. Sophomore Roger Gu threw down an impressive 20.70 in the 50-yard freestyle, breaking Barrett Roberts of Wheaton College’s 20.89 record from 2007. Gu’s time in the 50 free ranks him fourth in the nation for Div. III. Finally, the 400-yard medley relay team of Bowen, Gu, senior Zach Wallace and sophomore Matthew Manfre executed a time of 3:27.16, taking down an MIT relay team time from 2010, and winning by a comfortable three-second margin.

In the anchor freestyle leg of the relay, Gu had what he considers his best performance of the weekend with a time of 44.91, only 0.2 seconds off his championship meet time from last season.

This was only one of the eight races that Gu won over the course of the weekend: in addition to the 400 relay win and his record-breaking 50-yard freestyle on Saturday, he also won the 50 free the next day with 20.72, the 100 freestyle against both Coast Guard and Middlebury, swimming times of 46.83 and 46.64 respectively, and helped three more relays earn first places. He has earned the title of NESCAC Co-Performer of the Week, sharing the position with senior swimmer Tim Kostolansky of Williams College.

“It feels amazing,” Gu said. “The amount of support that I’ve gotten from my teammates and coaches has been crazy and I honestly can say that I could not have done it without every single one of them.”

But when asked about his performance over the weekend, Gu was nothing but humble.

“Right now it’s really a miracle that these times are showing up,” Gu said. “My races are a little sloppy and I’m looking to fine-tune the little details as we progress through the season.”

After a sound win over Coast Guard, Tufts had less than 24 hours before their next meet against Middlebury, so recovery meant jumping on a bus for a three-hour trek up to Vermont.

When asked how he recovered, Gu responded that, in short, he didn’t.

“Sunday’s races did not feel good for sure, but that doesn’t matter,” Gu said. “I tell myself that everyone is hurting and I just have to want it more than the guy next to me.”

During their win over the Panthers, the Jumbos achieved 11 first-place finishes, only losing one non-exhibition race in the 100 backstroke, won by junior Panther Brendan Leech with a 55.05. The team made a strong impression as soon as they dipped their toes in the water with their 200-yard medley.

The same team of Bowen, Wallace, Manfre and Gu combined to win the race by over four seconds in 1:34.89. Tufts B and C relay teams also topped Middlebury’s A team, who took fourth place with 1:40.16. Manfre was later swapped out for first-year 100-yard butterfly-winner Lomax Turner for the 400 freestyle relay, which again took first place with a strong 3:11.37 finish. 

“It feels so much better to accomplish something with your team than to do it alone,” Bowen said. “The more we can swim [the 400 medley relay] and compete at a high level, the better it is for us at the end of the season when it really matters.”

By the time the final four events of the day rolled around, the Jumbos had already won the meet, so they competed as exhibitions.

Bowen believes the team’s hard-working nature played an important role in the team’s success this early in the season.

“This year’s team may be the hardest working team I’ve been ever been a part of,” Bowen said. “Attendance and work ethic have been remarkably high. At the beginning of our season, our main goal at every meet is to compete and win close races. Our times will improve as the season goes on and as we get in better shape, but we always expect to display a competitive mentality.”

In addition, the team boasts two new, experienced members to its coaching staff: Joe Acquaviva, 2014 Johns Hopkins swim captain, and Michael Winget, part of Tufts Class of 2016, a past tri-captain of the team and holder of many school records.

“The team has been very fortunate this year with its stellar coaching staff,” Bowen said. “This weekend was the first opportunity for the new coaching staff to see how the team competed, so each one of the new coaches has a unique perspective on how to move forward. As long as we continue to train with the same sense of purpose we’ve displayed so far, we’ll keep improving as a team.”

The Jumbos, now 2–0, will take the pool again Dec. 1 and 2 for the MIT Invitational.