Men’s swimming and diving tops last year’s score, falls just short of back-to-back NESCAC titles

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

In an action-packed weekend featuring a dazzling display of aqua prowess, the Jumbos came up just short in defending their NESCAC title this weekend at Middlebury College. Tufts was neck and neck with Williams College, ultimately putting up a tally of 1,775.5 points, just short of the Ephs’ score of 1,822. There was distance from the rest of the pack: third place Amherst tallied 1,506 points.

The Jumbos’ score actually topped their points total from last season at Bowdoin College, where they totaled 1,671 pointsThe extra 100 points gained in a variety of ways, with old faces returning to once again put up top performances and new ones looking to make their mark. In all, there were nine first-place showings.

“Even though we didn’t win, it’s one of the most exciting weekends we’ve had … in my three years here,” junior Roger Gu said. “Just seeing really everyone really dig in and try their best, and that’s all we could ever ask for.”

Three of the showings individually came from the backstroke of senior tri-captain Kingsley Bowen. On Friday night, Bowen finished on top with a winning time of 22.48 in the 50-yard backstroke before prevailing in the 100-yard backstroke on Saturday with a time of 48.42. On Sunday, Bowen earned his sixth career NESCAC individual victory with 1:46.48 mark in the 200-yard backstroke. All of these marks were good enough for an NCAA B-cut mark and earned the super-senior NESCAC swimmer of the year and the NESCAC 4-Year High Point Swimmer Award.

In all, Bowen’s times were part of 24 total NCAA B-cut qualifying times, which means depending on the results of other races nationally, the swimmers may get invited to the NCAA championships in Greensboro, N.C. in late March.

“It speaks volumes of the program’s development,” coach Adam Hoyt said. “Currently we have 24 guys scoring in the conference championships, and many guys who don’t get to compete at the conference championship could’ve scored at the championship level.”

Gu was responsible for another smattering of top showings. In the 50-yard freestyle, Gu swam his way to 19.89-second performance in the finals that bested his own NESCAC record. This wasn’t the only record he set, as he also broke the NESCAC championship meet record in the 100-yard freestyle, finishing with a time of 43.78 seconds. Both scores were good enough were NCAA B-cut marks. Gu credited his coaching staff to helping him achieve his success.

“With our new coach Abby [Brethaur] this year, she’s definitely played a huge role,” Gu said. “Coach Doug Boyd has played a new role … [and] of course coach Hoyt and coach Joe [Aquaviva] always help.”

Gu and Bowen would swim to more first-place finishes as part of relay teams.

Gu swam as the anchor for a NESCAC record-breaking 200-yard freestyle relay with junior Costa Camerano and sophomores JJ Batt and Lomax Turner, collectively leading the pack with a 1:21.21 time. He would be joined by Bowen in both the 200- and 400-yard medley relays. For the former, they were joined by Camerano and fellow junior Matt Manfre for a 1:29.26 time worthy of a NCAA B-cut spot. In the 400-yard freestyle relay, Gu and Bowen were joined by first-years Nate Tingen and Tar Tar Jarusinchai to set yet another NESCAC record of 3.16:48, which was also a Tufts record.

“It takes four guys putting a great relay together,” Hoyt said. “It speaks volumes to the closeness of the guys on the team, it speaks highly that they want to swim for each other … [Sometimes guys are] putting together faster times than they would individually, [and it shows guys’] responsibility to do their part for the team, to step up.”

The crowd support certainly motivated the athletes.

“Part of what makes our swim team so special is the amount of team support we get,” Bowen said. “Even though the Middlebury meet was three or four hours away, at every section we had over 60 …  kids and parents cheering in the stands. I think it helps us put less pressure on ourselves because you start swimming for the team.”

Jarusinchai also took the crown in the 200-yard individual medley on Friday with a time of 1:51.09, rounding out the first-place finishes for the Jumbos. Camerano also had a busy weekend: His 22.12 in the 50-yard butterfly was good for second place and broke the Jumbo record for the event, while he also claimed third place in the 50-yard freestyle.

The announcements for the NCAA B-cuts turning into NCAA invitations come out this Wednesday, but in some situations, the circumstances are bigger than NCAAs.

“Last year we had our largest group of NCAA qualifiers [:11],” Hoyt said. “And this year I’ll believe we’ll have more. The more athletes you have competing, the more it feels like a team competition rather than an individual competition. The environment created when you have 10-plus is way different. There’s still more racing to be done.”