After about half of the Tufts women’s swimming and diving roster closed out its seasons at the Middlebury Invitational on Feb. 2 and 3, the remaining 24 athletes have been tapering and fine-tuning their strokes in preparation for this weekend’s NESCAC Championship. Williams, which will host the event, has won the conference championship in four consecutive years and has a promising chance to make it five: Ephs swimmers and divers lead the conference in 19 of the 22 individual events. The Jumbos, meanwhile, will be looking to improve on their eighth-place finish in 2016-17.
“At last year’s NESCAC Championship, we swam really well with the team we had,” Tufts coach Adam Hoyt said. “Of course, I’d like us to be more competitive in our conference, but I was quite proud of the performance.”
Hoyt also stressed that Tufts’ goals for this year’s conference championship meet are qualitative, not quantitative.
“Our aim for this weekend is similar to the team goals we set right as season started: positive attitude, composure, focus, enthusiasm and pride,” Hoyt said. “We’ve achieved these goals throughout the season, but I’m hoping this weekend will be a culmination, especially during a mentally and physically exhausting three-day competition. We can certainly improve the [result], but overall, we’re just looking to dream big and see what happens.”
Many of the Jumbos’ podium-potential performances this season have been held by their newcomers. First-year Jackie Crater leads the conference in the 100 and 200 backstroke, with impressive times of 57.72 seconds and 2:03.43, respectively. First-year Rhys Empey is ranked sixth in the 500-yard freestyle (5:07.77) and fourth in the 1650 freestyle (17:51.18), one place above first-year Sook-Hee Evans (17:57.41). First-year Lily Kurtz ranks fifth in the 100 breaststroke (1:05.86) and third in the 200 breaststroke (2:22.79). Finally, first-year Sasha Fong ranks third in the 50 fly (25.75 seconds) and sixth in the 100 fly (57.64).
The Jumbos can also potentially pick up points from sophomore Katherine Brown, who ranks seventh in the conference in the 50 breaststroke (31.22 seconds) and sixth in the 200 breaststroke (2:27.13). Senior co-captain Anna Kimura — who is third in the 100 breaststroke (1:05.47) and second in the 200 breaststroke (2:21.04) — and sophomore Grace Goetcheus, who ranks fifth in the 200 IM (2:09.70), will also look to provide strong performances.
Although many Jumbos have the potential to make waves of their own, the squad places emphasis on its performance as a unit.
“While I’d love to race my best and set some new personal bests, I think it’s more important for everyone to see that the team, as a whole, is doing well,” Crater said. “I definitely feel a lot of pressure going into this meet, but I put it on myself. This is my first really big college meet, and I want to help bring the team to the highest place we can get. On my club team in high school, everything was much more individually based, and the new teamwork aspect really excites me.”
In the diving well, first-year Amber Chong has demonstrated prowess and should contribute to the Jumbos’ score. She is currently ranked third in the conference for both the six- and 11-dive one-meter competitions, with scores of 282.97 and 404.30, respectively. At the three-meter height, she ranks seventh and fifth in the six- and 11-dive competitions, respectively.
“I’ve been working on my twisters and achieving higher difficulties, so hopefully they’ll pay off and score more points for the team,” Chong said. “It’ll be my first time performing these new dives in a competition setting, so I’m not sure how they’ll go. After an intensive twister workshop with [former Tufts diver] Matt Rohrer [LA ’17] last week, I saw a lot of improvement in my twisters. At Middlebury, I scored twos and threes on my twisters, but I think I can average sixes at NESCACs this weekend.”
In preparation for the championship meet, the swimmers are focusing on resting and tapering their yardage. The divers, on the other hand, are doing the opposite.
“This week, we’ll be trying to get through all our dives every practice, and there’s 22, so it’s a lot to get in within our time,” Chong said. “I’m not worried about being tired, though. The repetition helps me feel more confident about my dives.”
With the rest of the conference posing stiff competition, confidence will be the key to success in the Samuelson-Muir Pool this weekend. The Jumbos will trek to Williamstown, Mass. on Thursday afternoon, where they will get in their last practice of the season and mentally prepare themselves for a marathon weekend. The Championship begins at 10 a.m. on Friday and lasts until Sunday evening.