As the regular season came to a close, four Tufts swimmers competed in the February Invite at Middlebury on Sunday in an attempt to hit pre-qualification marks for the upcoming NCAA Div. III national tournament. Senior Colleen Doolan raced in the 200-yard butterfly, earning a season-best qualifying mark with a 2:05.69 time in the non-team scoring event. Doolan’s time is just under the NCAA B-cut qualifying time of 2:05.85.
“Colleen has been to NCAA’s before and it’s just a huge accomplishment,” coach Adam Hoyt said. “Every year, it’s more competitive to make the cuts, and official invitations come out on Wednesday [Feb. 27], so we’ll know for sure who is competing there, and she has a really good chance of being able to compete there.”
This qualification marks the third time in Doolan’s career that she has hit the qualification time for the national championship. Doolan competed in the tournament as both a first-year and a sophomore, but missed the mark her junior year.
“[Hitting the qualification time] … meant a lot, honestly, coming out of last year, which was just tough all around both with swimming and academically, so to almost have a comeback year was just really special and a great way to end my swimming career,” Doolan said.
Doolan will also be competing on the 800-yard freestyle relay team at nationals.
“If I had missed the B-cut [qualification mark], that would have been my last 200 fly ever, and the 200 fly has been my event for almost as long as I have been swimming,” Doolan said. “So it was an ‘either way’ situation where either way if I make the B-cut, I was going to be super excited to be going to nationals and be able to swim individually, but at the same time that could have been my last 200 fly ever. So that was my mentality going into it.”
First-year Hannah Spencer, first-year Emma Donchi and sophomore Jackie Crater also raced at the February Invite. While Doolan was the only Jumbo to earn a qualifying time, Spencer earned a 24.17 in the 50- yard freestyle, Donchi raced a 57.87 in the 100-yard backstroke and Crater earned a 2:05.38 in the 200-yard backstroke.
Now officially in the postseason, the Jumbos are preparing for the NCAA Div. III national tournament as well as the NCAA Zone Diving Qualifier. Sophomore Amber Chong will be the lone Jumbo to dive at the qualifier this weekend, and her score will determine her invitation to the national tournament.
“Amber has done a great job in her two years competing and training, “ Hoyt said. “I’m hoping she can execute her dives really well and she can put together a full performance that she’s proud of, and if that puts her in a position to move on to the national championships, then we will be thrilled. That will be an amazing accomplishment for her and [for] our diving program.”
With the championship just over three weeks away, the team enters a period of both rest and preparation. As many as 10 Jumbo swimmers could compete at the tournament this year, possibly the highest yield in program history.
“I think we have a really good chance of qualifying around 10 women to the national championships, which is the largest number of women we’ve brought since I have been coaching at Tufts,” Hoyt said. “As far as preparation is concerned, we’re basically looking to maintain aerobic endurance and fitness levels, maintain our strength and then just fine-tune and sharpen up technical aspects of our racing.”