Men’s swim and dive finishes 2nd at NESCAC championships for 2nd straight year

Senior Roger Gu is pictured. Courtesy Tufts Athletics

The men’s swim and dive team traveled to Williams to compete at the NESCAC Championships over the weekend. Hoping to upset the host team and retake the top spot in the conference, the Jumbos finished as runners-up for the second consecutive year.

Finishing the meet with 1797.5 points — a higher point total from a season ago — Tufts narrowly trailed first-place Williams (1987.5 points) throughout the meet. The Jumbos put up fantastic performances across every session, but the balance and depth of the Ephs proved insurmountable as they successfully defended their title.

“The team was great this weekend,” coach Adam Hoyt said. “We showed a lot of the toughness that was needed to be successful over a four-day meet, especially stepping up and performing well on [the final day].”

The Jumbos started off the meet with a hard-fought third-place finish in the 800-yard freestyle relay. The foursome of sophomore Nate Tingen, junior Tyler Tatro, sophomore Victor Vollbrechthausen and sophomore Tar Tar Jarusinchai grappled with Amherst and Bates for second place. Jarusinchai’s blazing anchor split of 1:40.34 nearly pulled the team even with the Mammoths, but the Jumbos ultimately settled for third in 6:44.59, just under a second out of second place.

Trailing after the first day of competition, things quickly turned in favor of the Jumbos. Senior Roger Gu and junior John LaLime led the way with 88 and 90 individual point efforts, respectively, each capturing two conference titles. In the sprints, Gu successfully defended his titles and set pool records in both the 50-yard freestyle (19.78) and 100-yard freestyle (43.87). With his swims, Gu capped off an illustrious four-year NESCAC stint with five individual titles.

“I’m happy with how my races went this weekend,” Gu said. “Given more rest and refinement in practice, I’m excited to see where it goes [at NCAAs].”

LaLime was equally successful in the distance disciplines, earning his first-ever conference titles and setting pool records in both the 1000-yard freestyle (9:22.89) and the 1650-yard freestyle (15:38.87). After missing the podium his first two years, LaLime finally had his long-awaited breakthrough to the forefront of an incredibly competitive field of NESCAC distance swimmers.

“Last year, I had a rough, rough meet. I wasn’t sure if I could bounce back,” LaLime said. “But I was, and am, surrounded by the best coaches, teammates, friends and family in the whole world. I realized I perform the best when I’m just happy … It feels weird to say, but I was happy this weekend and I think it came out in my swimming, not the other way around.”

Behind these individual efforts, the rest of the team rallied and put up great swims across the board. In the 50-yard breaststroke, senior Matt Manfre pulled slightly ahead from a tightly bunched field to touch second in a time of 25.34, breaking the then 11-year-old school record that he had set in the preliminaries. Senior co-captain Costa Camerano led the Jumbos in the 100-yard butterfly with a second place time of 49.23, narrowly finishing ahead of first-year Joshua Balbi who settled for fourth in 49.39. Jarusinchai jumped the gun early in the 200-yard breaststroke, going out at a blistering 58.03 pace before finishing third in a new school record time of 2:03.15. In the backstrokes, Tingen utilized great underwaters to capture second place in both the 100-yard (49.38) and 200-yard (1:49.04) races. Aside from their individual performances, the Jumbos also captured titles in the 200-yard medley and 200-yard freestyle relays, setting pool, meet and school records in both. In the final race of the meet, the team of first-year Peter Labarge, Tingen, junior JJ Batt and Gu set a record time of 2:59.52 in the 400-yard freestyle, setting an all-time NESCAC record. With the Jumbos and Mammoths neck-and-neck going into the final stretch, Gu threw down a monstrous 43.05 anchor leg to run down the Mammoths and cap off the competition with a hard-fought victory.

“Throughout the meet, we harped on a theme of ‘I can’t but we can,’ and immediately after the race, that was the first thing that went through my mind,” Gu said. “Being able to finish off that relay with a win made me really grateful for all of the opportunities I’ve had with the team, and I’m sad that this is the last conference meet I will be participating in.”

Overall, Tufts had a very successful championship weekend filled with fast swims across the team. The Jumbos captured seven conference titles en route to establishing seven school records and 21 NCAA B cuts.

Next up, the men’s team will travel to Greensboro, N.C. in three weeks for the NCAA National Championships.

“I’m very excited to see the team compete at NCAAs and believe they’re on track to put together some great performances,” Hoyt said. “I believe that we’re ready for the NCAA Championships and really just need to keep doing what we’ve done all season long which is work hard, stay focused, support each other and continue learning about how to get better at executing great performances.”