Jumbos post best result in five years at NESCAC Championships

Junior Colleen Doolan swims the butterfly in a meet against MIT on Jan. 15, 2017. Courtesy Dave DeCortin

The Tufts women’s swimming and diving team left some serious ripples at the NESCAC championship meet from Feb. 16–18, hosted by Williams. The Jumbos finished in an impressive fourth place overall, their best result in five years — thus marking the best-ever performance for senior co-captains Alli Dorneo, Anna Kimura and Jess Lee.

Kimura swam her way to an impressive second-place finish in the 200 breaststroke (worth 28 points), with a time of 2:19.44, which put her firmly in contention for a berth at next month’s national meet in that event. Kimura also claimed 24 points in the 200-yard individual medley by finishing in 2:07.45 to place sixth. The Bellevue, Wash. native was not the only Tufts upperclassman to put up superb individual results in the loaded field, as junior Colleen Doolan finished in sixth in the 200 butterfly, with a time of 2:07.30.

Nonetheless, many of the Jumbos’ first-year swimmers capped off what has proven to be a successful season with some key finishes. First-year Jackie Crater placed seventh in the 100-yard backstroke with a time of 58.05 seconds, as did first-year Lily Kurtz in the 100-yard breaststroke (1:05.55). Kurtz also finished sixth — four spots behind Kimura — in the 200 breaststroke (2:23.93). First-year Sook-Hee Evans placed 10th in the 1000-yard freestyle, with a time of 10:35.95, while in the diving well, first-year Amber Chong finished fourth in the one meter competition for one of Tufts’ best results of the weekend.

The Jumbos faced some of their strongest competition of the season over the course of three grueling days in the pool. In spite of (or perhaps because of) this challenge, the team put forth some of its best performances of the year, according to Evans.

“It seemed like the team swam better and better each day,” Evans told the Daily in an email. “We really hyped each other up, and the cheering section certainly helped. We did a few cheers across the pool with them.”

Crater explained how the support from around the pool spurred the Jumbos to higher achievements.

“Everyone got more tired as the meet went on, but many girls on the team who were not swimming at NESCACs — and a large part of the men’s team — drove to Williams to watch us swim and to cheer us on,” Crater told the Daily in an email. “That definitely helped keep the team in high spirits. Knowing that my teammates are in the stands cheering me on really helped me get through my most difficult races.”

The Jumbos’ unity was needed not only in the cheering, but also in the weekend’s relay events, in which they performed well. The quartet of Crater, Kimura, first-year Sasha Fong and Doolan took fifth in the 400-yard medley relay with a school-record time of 3:52.00. Doolan, first-year Abby Claus, sophomore Grace Goetcheus and Crater also swam their way to fourth place in the 800-yard freestyle relay (7:40.91). The Jumbos set another program record with a seventh-place finish in the 400-yard freestyle relay, as the team of Crater, Fong, Claus and Doolan touched the wall in 3:32.71.

Many Jumbos also competed in the consolation or pre-consolation finals, which offered the swimmers who didn’t make the top eight in the preliminary heats an opportunity to improve their times. Fong finished second in the consolation heat (and 10th overall) for the 50-yard butterfly. The Santa Rosa, Calif. native’s time of 25.47 seconds was a school record, the fourth set by Tufts at the NESCAC Championships. A host of other Jumbos — including Kurtz, Lee, Goetcheus, Doolan, Kimura, sophomore Katherine Brown and junior Caroline McCormick — also swam in consolation races, adding more events to an already strenuous weekend.

All of the team’s points proved to be critical, as Tufts’ total of 1,023.5 (a 323-point improvement from last year) proved to edge fifth-place Bowdoin by just 25 points. The Jumbos fell 37 points short of the third-place Conn. College Camels. Amherst finished second with 1,615 points, while hosts Williams came away with the top spot for the fifth consecutive year, earning 1,971 points.

“The NESCAC is very competitive, especially with powerhouses like Williams and Amherst,” Evans said. “As a team, we didn’t set many expectations. We decided to go in, swim as fast as we could and just see how high we could score.”

Crater took pride in the fact that the Jumbos improved their result in the NESCAC Championships standings by four places in a single year.

“NESCACs is definitely an unpredictable meet and you never know how fast people are capable of swimming, so it is fun to see teammates drop large amounts of time,” Crater said. “I think that the excitement of being so close to fourth place really helped to drive the team, even when we got tired in the meet. I’m extremely proud of my team because we went from eighth place to fourth place in one season, and not many teams are able to do that.”

For some Jumbos, this was the last meet of their college swimming careers. However, others, such as Kimura, are projected to swim at the NCAA Championships in Indianapolis from March 21–24. For the impressive first-year class, as well as the sophomores and juniors, next season offers a chance to return even stronger and healthier.

“We worked so hard [this season], and despite setbacks such as most of the team getting the flu over winter break, we really pushed,” Evans said. “It’s really great to know I contributed to this as a [first-year], and I can’t wait for the next few years.”