First-years dazzle as Tufts swim and dive teams defeat WPI, Wesleyan in quad meet season opener

Senior Roger Gu is pictured. Courtesy Tufts Athletics

The men’s and women’s swimming and diving teams traveled to Williamstown, Mass., on Saturday for their season-opening quad meet. The men’s team emerged victorious over Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) 251–68 and over Wesleyan 259–56, but were topped by the hosting team Williams 175–138. The women’s team similarly downed WPI and Wesleyan 267–54 and 255–57, respectively, but were also topped by the hosts 201.5–111.5.

Coach Adam Hoyt spoke about his expectations heading into the competition, as well as his initial impressions from the meet.

“Since this was our first time competing as a team since last March, I did not have any performance expectations for our team,” Hoyt said. “I did have expectations on the level of energy the team brought to the meet, and [I thought] everyone did a great job supporting each other, cheering and keeping the energy level high throughout the meet.”

The women’s team showcased its incredible versatility, posting top finishes across all four-stroke disciplines. Junior Lily Kurtz and first-year Emma van Duijnhoven led the way for the Jumbos in the 200-yard breaststroke, placing first and second with times of 2:33.15 and 2:33.56, respectively. In the butterfly events, junior Amy Socha snagged a pair of second-place finishes in the 100-yard and 200-yard distances, with times of 58.37 and 2:09.97 respectively, while classmate Sasha Fong sprinted to a third-place finish in the 50-yard butterfly with a time of 26.60. 

The Jumbos also performed well in the middle-distance events, with first-year Claire Brennan and sophomore Mary Hufziger capturing third and fourth respectively in the 200-yard freestyle, while junior Abby Claus and first-year Chloe Deveney placed third and fifth in the 400-yard individual medley, respectively.

The Jumbo first-year class swam exceptionally well throughout the course of the meet. In particular, first-year Katelin Isakoff had a stellar collegiate debut, topping the field in the 200-yard butterfly with a time of 2:08.68. Isakoff also placed second in the 500-yard freestyle in a close bout with Williams swimmer Molly Craig , while also swimming strong to place fifth in the 200-yard freestyle.

Isakoff shared how she felt about her debut as a Jumbo and what she looked forward to for the remainder of the season.

“The first meet was really fun, everyone [was] cheering and supporting each other,” Isakoff said. “The older swimmers were so fun behind the starting blocks and definitely helped to calm my nerves. It truly was a special experience to be representing Tufts [and] to be swimming for a team for the first time and not just for myself. I think we swam and dove really well for this time of year, and I’m just really excited for the rest of the season!”

Hoyt also spoke about how he felt his first-year class handled its first experience with the collegiate dual-meet experience.

“It was nice to see our first-years racing and diving in their first collegiate meet,” Hoyt said. “The class handled the pressure well and put together some good performances.”

On the men’s side, the Jumbos, led by senior Roger Gu, secured top finishes in a number of sprint and middle-distance events. Gu, fresh off his 2019 NCAA title in the 50-yard freestyle, scorched the field and finished in a blistering 20.55, nearly a second faster than the rest of the field. Gu also picked up a win in the 100-yard freestyle in a 46.04 and placed third in the 200-yard distance, while anchoring the winning Tufts 200-yard freestyle relay in a blazing 19.81 split — the only swimmer at the meet to split sub-20 seconds.

Gu shared his thoughts about his and the team’s overall performance, as well as his expectations for how the rest of the season will go.

“I went into the meet with the goal to practice getting back into a racing mindset, and I think that went well. The times might not have been the best, but there was a lot of good energy and takeaways that will definitely benefit [the team] and myself for future meets,” Gu said. “It really is tough racing together for the first time as a new team, but we handled it well and it definitely shows for a promising rest of the season. Coming in as the [defending] champion is cool, but it definitely won’t be an easy year and I’m looking to keep improving as the season goes.”

Sophomore Tar Tar Jarusinchai also played a major role for the Jumbos, finishing in the top three in all three of his events. Jarusinchai exhibited his breaststroke prowess with a first-place finish in the 200-yard breaststroke, with a time of 2:10.72, over five seconds faster than his teammate and runner-up sophomore Michael Gregorace, who finished in 2:16.29. He also nabbed two second-place finishes in both the 50-yard breaststroke and the 100-yard breaststroke.

The rest of the men’s team performed admirably with a number of top finishes. First-year Joshua Balbi showcased his speed, racing to fifth in the 50-yard butterfly, third in the 100-yard butterfly, and fourth in the 50-yard backstroke. Sophomore Nate Tingen finished second in both the 50-yard backstroke and 100-yard backstroke, while also finishing third in the 200-yard backstroke. The Jumbos were also strong in the sprint freestyles; besides Gu, first-year Dylan Brown nabbed third in the 50-yard freestyle  and 100-yard freestyle, with times of 21.78 and 47.70, respectively.

Hoyt shared his insight on how the team’s training has gone and what to expect from the team moving forward.

“We trained through the meet,” Hoyt said. “Our focus is being the best we can be during the championship season, and with the NESCAC schedule and start date, we need every day we can get to train with that goal in mind.”

Not to be outdone, the men’s and women’s diving teams put up notable performances in both the 1-meter and 3-meter competitions. For the women, first-years Alaina Kosko and Sydney Ho placed third and fourth in the 1-meter, with scores of 252.00 and 246.46, respectively. The two also dove their way to second- and fourth-place finishes in the 3-meter contest. 

On the men’s side, first-year standout Zach Lawrence topped the field in the 3-meter with a score of 303.53, while classmate Kai Renshaw finished third with 235.21. Renshaw was able to beat out Lawrence on the 1-meter, with the two grabbing second and third respectively.

Both the men’s and women’s teams finished the meet with stellar relay performances in the 200-yard freestyle relay. The foursome of senior co-captain Grace Goetcheus, Fong, and first-years Hannah Lesser and Isakoff finished in 1:41.42, narrowly edging out the other Tufts relay, comprised of senior Brooke Bernstein, Hufziger, sophomore Hannah Spencer and first-year Camille Ross, with a time of 1:41.55. For the men, the foursome of Gu, juniors JJ Batt, Dylan Brown and first-year Peter LaBarge surged to a winning time of 1:24.91, beating out the other Tufts relays that finished in second and third.

Hoyt voiced how he felt the teams could improve their approach toward competition going into the rest of the season.

“We need to continue to build on our energy level at meets,” Hoyt said. “We have a large team that can impact the environment of a meet, and that’s a goal of ours. We’ll continue sharpening up technical aspects of our swimming and diving; with only two-and-a-half weeks of practice, we see areas where we can be better in for our next contests.”

Up next, both teams will travel to Waltham, Mass., to face the Brandeis University Judges Sunday at 1 p.m. for a non-conference dual meet.