February 15, 2007

W. Swimming Heads to Ivies

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Anticipating yesterday’s blizzard, the women’s swimming and diving team arrived a day early in Princeton, N.J., to compete in the biggest event of its season — the Ivy championships, which begin this morning and continue through Saturday.

“The attitude of the team is very positive,” said head coach John Holohan. “They are focused, excited, and ready to help each other compete well.”
[img_assist|nid=21408|title=Eyes to the sky.|desc=The women’s swimming team will compete in the Ivy championships today through Saturday in Princeton, N.J., to complete their 2006-2007 season.|link=none|align=left|width=100|height=65]
After using its dual meet season as an opportunity for capturing individual wins and posting personal best times, the Red will call upon these successes when it faces the new pressure of a championship meet.

Each day of competition at Ivies is broken down into preliminary swims in the morning and finals swims at night. The top-24 swimmers from the preliminary heats are split into three tiers for finals competition: bonus (17th to24th place), consolation (ninth to16th place), and finals (first through eighth place).

“The setup can cause confusion,” Holohan said. “At times, the ninth-place time is faster than, say, the fourth-place time. It also places importance on preliminary swims. All scores are based on the 24 swimmers who place in the finals tiers.”

The Red has the opportunity for 18 of its athletes to swim at the Ivy championships. Figuring into Holohan’s selection of who races at the championships are an individual swimmer’s performance throughout the season, academic status and championship meet experience —

not to mention health. According to Holohan, this year’s team has been hampered by illness.

Among the missing team members is junior Emilie Rennie, the team’s top returning distance freestyle swimmer who has been out all season. In last year’s championships, Rennie placed 13th in the 1000 free and 10th in the mile, racking up points for Cornell which will be sorely missed this year. Recently added to the injured list is junior Colleen Murphy, who slipped on ice last week and broke a bone in the process.

“Colleen had been looking very good in practice and she will be missed at the meet,” Holohan said. “We hope that she has a speedy recovery.”

Although the Red has arrived at the championships well prepared and well in advance, Holohan has yet to make the final determination of the events in which each swimmer will race. Each athlete women is entered in more events she can swim and then scratched if she chooses not to compete in a race. But the team has a long list of veteran and rookie swimmers who are ready to race.

“Our goal for this meet is to swim season best times,” Holohan said. “In addition, we want to score as well as we can and have as many lifetime best times as possible.”

Leading Cornell at the Ivy Championships is junior co-captain Leah Tourtellotte, who has spent much of the dual-meet season winning multiple individual events each meet. Last year, Tourtellotte qualified for her first final — make that first three finals — at Ivies, placing in the top eight in each of her individual events. In the 200 free, Tourtellotte swam a lifetime best (1:52.14) to take fourth in the event and set a new Cornell record in the process. She also placed fifth in the 50 free (23.97) and eighth in the 100 free (51.96), in addition to swimming in the school record-breaking 800 free relay team.

Senior co-captain Kristin Conway scored in the 200 free (1:56.59) last year and placed 23rd in the event. Like Tourtellotte, she was a member of the last year’s outstanding 800 free relay team. Her classmate and co-captain Sabrina Kwauk also competed well in last year’s championships, placing 23rd in the 100 breast and 22nd in the 200 breast.

In diving, senior co-captain Caitlin Burrows is hoping to use the experience she gained in her first trip to Ivies last season as a launch pad for this year’s success. Another swimmer to watch is sophomore Sarah Yan, who consistently won events throughout her breakout dual-meet season this year after swimming with an undiagnosed illness last season.