Swimming and diving teams impress at MIT Invitational

First-year Joseph Kim swims his way to victory in the 400-yard individual medley at the MIT Invitational on Dec. 2, 2018. Courtesy Paul Rutherford

After defeating Middlebury at home on Nov. 18 to open their seasons, Tufts’ swimming and diving teams enjoyed a free weekend before competing in the three-day MIT Invitational over the weekend. The women’s side came out on top of the eight-team field, while the men’s team finished second of six teams.

Men’s swimming and diving

In the first event of the meet on Friday, the squad of first-year Joseph Kim, sophomore Tyler Tatro, sophomore John Koster and junior Roger Gu teamed up to place second in the 800-yard freestyle relay, finishing behind MIT in a time of 6:48.29. Tufts swimmers took second, third and fourth place in the 1,650-yard freestyle, with sophomore John LaLime (16:14.92) leading the way behind MIT senior Josh Graves. The Jumbos led the pack with 256 points points at the conclusion of Friday’s events, while MIT (233) and RPI (213) placed second and third, respectively.

On Saturday, the Jumbo men were overtaken by the MIT Engineers, as the hosts finished the day with 1,154.5 points to the Jumbos’ 1,100. Senior co-captain Kingsley Bowen captured first place in the 100-yard backstroke in 50.47 seconds, while Kim won the 400-yard individual medley in 3:59.95 to meet the NCAA B cut — the lower of two standards for determining invitations to the NCAA Championships. Meanwhile, Gu set a new personal record in winning the 50-yard freestyle with a mark of 19.77 seconds.

On Sunday, Kim picked up his second individual win of the weekend with a victory in the 200-yard backstroke in 1:48.28. The Philadelphia native’s time met the B cut by more than a second and was under last year’s qualifying time, giving Kim a chance to qualify for this season’s NCAA meet.

Gu added another victory on Sunday, winning the 100-yard freestyle in a time of 44.44 seconds. Meanwhile, multiple Jumbos picked up second-place finishes in other events. Tatro took runner-up honors in the 500-yard freestyle, finishing in 4:41.34, while Tatro, Bowen, Gu and first-year Tar Tar Jarusinchai combined to place second in the 400-yard freestyle relay with a time of 3:04.12. Despite their success, the Jumbos were unable to catch the Engineers, finishing with 1,886 points to the hosts’ 2,012.

In just his second collegiate competition, Kim was named NESCAC Performer of the Week for his two impressive victories. Kim is the first Tufts swimmer to win the award as a first-year since Bowen did so in January 2016.

“I wasn’t expecting it, so it’s pretty exciting,” Kim said of the recognition. “It’s cool to be following in Bowen’s footsteps.”

Overall, the Jumbos were happy with their performance at the Invitational, especially after a demanding week of practice.

“We didn’t get a lot of rest before this meet, and we still had lift on Wednesday and had some difficult practices throughout the week,” Kim said. “A three-day meet is hard for anyone, but the team did a great job warming up and … cheering and racing through the fatigue. This weekend really set us up for the [conference] championships — another three-day meet.”

Women’s swimming and diving

Meanwhile, the women’s team pulled off a comeback to steal victory from MIT on the final day of competition, closing out the Invitational with 1,777 points to the hosts’ 1,684.

The Jumbos started off strong, recording 243 points on Friday. The team won the first meet of the day, with junior Grace Goetcheus, first-year Mary Hufziger, sophomore Abby Claus and senior Colleen Doolan finishing the 800-yard freestyle relay in 7:36.47, three seconds ahead of second-place MIT. In the 1,650-yard freestyle, sophomore Sook-Hee Evans’ time of 17:35.50 was good enough for third place, while sophomore Rhys Empey and senior Ailish Dougherty took fifth and sixth, respectively. In the one-meter dive competition, sophomore Amber Chong took third behind two MIT divers with a score of 270.65.

On Saturday, Tufts was unable to close the gap on MIT but did increase its lead over third-place RPI to nearly 700 points. In the highlight of the day, the Jumbos went one-two in the 200-yard freestyle, as Hufziger finished first in 1:53.39 and was followed by Evans, who recorded a mark of 1:54.92. Meanwhile, sophomore Lily Kurtz captured first place in the 100-yard breaststroke in 1:04.54 to make the NCAA B cut.

The women’s team mounted an impressive push on Sunday to overtake MIT for first place, as Kurtz led the way with a first-place finish in the 200-yard breaststroke (2:21.63) to make another NCAA B cut. The 200-medley relay squad of Kurtz, first-year Jeanette Khowong, sophomore Sasha Fong and first-year Hannah Spencer captured second place in 1:44.72, besting the 2012 program record of 1:45.83 in the process. Fong also finished second in the 100-yard butterfly with a time of 56.85 seconds, while Evans and sophomore Jackie Crater notched third-place results in the 500-yard freestyle and 200-yard backstroke, respectively.

“It was a really exciting weekend, a lot of girls had awesome swims,” Kurtz told the Daily in an email. “I’m really proud of everyone, we really came together and proved how hard we worked. I’m especially proud of Abby Claus and [first-year] Juliette Bichon, who are two of many who swam awesome and got personal bests this weekend.”

Coach Adam Hoyt was encouraged by the team’s comeback win over the Engineers, who finished last season ranked sixth in the country.

“To challenge one of the best teams in the country was special and reflects the work the women have put in so far,” Hoyt said.

Both the men’s and the women’s teams enjoyed a rest day on Monday, before diving right back into training mode ahead of Saturday’s meets against Wesleyan, WPI and Williams in Middletown, Conn.

“At this time of the season, our goal isn’t about times; it’s about race execution, toughness and energy,” Hoyt said. “Both teams did a great job with these things this past weekend, and I’d like them to carry that through to this weekend’s competition and step up, even though they might be physically and mentally tired.”

The brown and blue will square off against a pair of NESCAC foes in Wesleyan and Williams, as well as non-conference opponent WPI, at 1 p.m. on Saturday.