Jumbos engineer third-place finish at MIT Invitational behind strong showings from Bowen, Gu

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

Tufts men’s swimming and diving earned a respectable third-place finish in the largest meet of the curtailed fall semester season. Competing against five other teams at the MIT Winter Invitational on Dec. 1–3, the No. 11 Jumbos — led by junior Kingsley Bowen and sophomore Roger Gu — earned 1016.5 points, trailing only the No. 4 Engineer hosts (1683) and the No. 6 New York University Violets (1437).

The Jumbos participated in a trio of finals on Friday: the 800-yard freestyle relay, the 1650-yard free and the 3-meter dive. First, the foursome of senior Zach Wallace, first-year Lomax Turner, Bowen and senior captain James McElduff finished fourth out of 17 teams with a time of 6:52.62.

Next, during the 1650-free race, junior Brandon Jinn swam a 16:24.70 race, finishing third behind MIT junior Josh Graves and NYU first-year Peyton Lycas. Given Jinn’s 16:21.95 performance at February’s NESCAC Championships, it is evident that the Winchendon, Mass. native is already in fine form at an early point in the season. Friday’s last event was the 3-meter dive. Senior Aaron Idelson, a past All-American for the Jumbos, earned a score of 262.30, enough for a fourth-place finish.

The Jumbos competed in eight more event finals on Saturday. Notable individual performances included Gu’s first-place victory over 46 other swimmers in the 50-yard free and Bowen’s second-place showing in the 100-yard back, both of which boasted times that were under the 2017 Invited Time. Additionally, first-year James Parker, Wallace, McElduff and Gu finished third in the 200-yard free relay.

Bowen spoke highly of Gu’s contributions to the team, not only directly through his splits but also through Gu’s ability to motivate others.

“He’s a special talent, and we’re really lucky to have him on our team,” Bowen said. “He makes all of our relays contenders at our conference and national meet and consistently posts fast times throughout the season. Sprint freestyle events are the events that most people gather around to watch, and he consistently inspires the team when we need it.”

The Medford swimmers competed in another eight finals on Sunday. Highlights included Bowen’s 49.54 time in the 100-yard fly, good for third place. Unfortunately, his time was only one-10th of a second above the NCAA B cut. However there is still time in the season to swim under it. Additionally, the quartet of Bowen, sophomore Matthew Manfre, Wallace and Gu snagged fifth place in the 200-yard medley relay with a time of 1:31.99, where only one-fourth of a second separated third, fourth and fifth place. This result constituted an improvement over the foursome’s showing in the 400-yard medley the day before, when the four swimmers’ 3:24.89 finish slotted them in sixth place.

Bowen ascribed the better showing in the shorter race to the way in which the team prepared for the three-day competition.

“For this meet, we rested for only a few days,” Bowen said. “While shorter events can benefit from this because we can keep up our physical strength, the longer events require a bit more rest.”

This Saturday, the Jumbos will swim in a meet hosted by the Wesleyan Cardinals. Also competing will be the No. 12 Williams Ephs and the No. 23 WPI Engineers. 

After that, the team’s next competition will not take place until a Jan. 16 face-off against the Boston College Eagles. According to Tufts coach Adam Hoyt, the intervening time will be spent training for the spring leg of the season.

“As we look ahead, there are really two things we want to focus on,” Hoyt said. “One is training. From now until mid-January we only have one race to attend … so we want to pick a few things for each athlete to work on. Training is a big focus since we want to improve our endurance and focus.”

Hoyt’s other focus is on bringing the team together.

“We have only met as a team for few times in one month,” he said. “I want the [players] to come spend time together so that they can get to know each other and help each other out.”