Concluding its season with a loss to Brown, the Cornell men’s swimming and diving team is off to the four-day Ivy League Championships hosted by Harvard. The men will be facing off against only six other Ivy League schools in Cambridge to take home the title of Ivy League champion.
Head coach Wes Newman ’09 is no stranger to success in the pool. When he was a member of the men’s swimming team, he helped lead Cornell to an undefeated season in 2007, as well as a third place finish at the Ivy League Championships in 2009. After graduating and coming back as a coach, he guided the Red to two consecutive third place finishes at championships in his first two years.
Now that same atmosphere is coming back again, and Newman is eager for the team to prove itself.
“I think everybody always gets excited for championships. Tapering down, resting and just getting ready to swim hopefully your fastest time for the season gets everybody really excited,” the former Cornell swimmer said. “Managing their excitement, keeping their confidence and then focusing on little things that are within their control I think are the main things that we’re trying to [accomplish] going into this meet.”
The Red ended its regular dual-meet season on a less than stellar note, losing to Brown by a score of 103-197. This solidifies the team’s 2016-17 regular season record as 2-6, leaving the Red at sixth in the league.
“We aren’t too happy with our ranking at the moment, and I know everyone is itching to get in there and show people that we’re better than that,” said senior captain Luke Reisch. “I think we’re a better team than we were last year and that should really show at this meet.”
The championship meet spans the course of four days, where the schools will compete in events across the board. However, unlike previous years, Princeton — ranked first in the league with an undefeated conference record of 7-0 — will not be competing. This is due to the fact that the team’s season was suspended back in December due to its members being linked to a series of vulgar and racist messages found on their program’s listserv.
“It’ll definitely change the layout of this meet because Princeton is historically a powerhouse in our league for swimming,” Newman said. “Taking them out will bump everybody else up a few spots in each event, so it’ll be interesting to see how that impacts just the points, in general, of the entire meet.”
Based on the outcome of this year’s season, Cornell’s biggest competition will be Brown and Columbia, both teams the Red lost to earlier in the regular season. Despite these outcomes, the team’s confidence remains intact.
“Last year we out touched Columbia in the final relay to beat them in the meet and they’ll be wanting redemption,” Reisch said. “Brown got the best of us in our dual meet this season and we all want to come back and beat them when it really counts.”
The length of the meet does not seem to be much of a concern to the team and coaching staff. Though Newman is aware that the tournament will be both tiring and exhilarating, he is optimistic that the time the team took to rest up will help in tackling this challenge.
“[The team will] feed off of that energy and excitement, and the environment will bring out the best in them,” Newman said. “It’s always easier to compete at your highest level when you have the energy of a big crowd, [and] the intensity of an exciting atmosphere always brings out the best in people. I think that definitely always helps at Ivy and produces some fantastic performances.”
So far, Newman’s predictions have come to fruition, as the team is now in a three-way tie for third place alongside Yale and Columbia. The Red, Bulldogs and Lions each have a score of 104 points, usurped by Penn in second with 110 and the host Harvard in first with 128. Trailing at the back of the pack are Brown with 96 points and Dartmouth with 94 points.
The two events held Wednesday were both relays: the 200 medley and the 800 free. The Red came in third for the former, finishing with a time of 1:26.68. This time was milliseconds after Penn’s second place finish with 1:26.34 and a little over a second slower than Harvard’s first place finish.
The team did not fare as well in the latter event, the 800 free, where it finished fifth with a time of 6:37.82 seconds, nearly 10 seconds after Columbia’s fourth place finish of 6:27.33.
The rest of the championships will continue until Saturday, Feb. 22.