November 21, 2008

Individual Upsets Will Be Key in Red’s Weekend

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The men’s and women’s swimming teams are headed out to Princeton, N.J., tomorrow for a tri-meet against Princeton and Penn. Both men and women’s teams are looking forward to a battle against the two solid teams. [img_assist|nid=33809|title=More bars in more places|desc=The women’s swimming team competes during a home loss against Brown on Feb. 9|link=node|align=left|width=|height=0]
“We’re definitely looking to beat Penn, we feel pretty confident we should,” senior captain Wes Newman said. “Against Princeton, our strategy is to try to improve on our personal performances last week against Harvard and see what happens.”
According to Newman, Princeton is known for its depth and is the favorite for the Ivy title this year. It has an especially strong freshman recruiting class which should get lots of points on the board no matter if they win every individual event or not.
The Princeton men finished second last year behind Harvard, while the women finished first with a perfect record. The Penn men finished sixth in the Ancient Eight and the women’s team finshed fifth with a 3-4 record.
The Cornell men’s team is coming off a solid opening meet against Dartmouth and perennial Ivy swimming powerhouse Harvard. Though the team dropped a close loss to Harvard, the Red beat Dartmouth, giving it a solid beginning to the season.
Freshman Michael Cai was integral to the success of the Red in Cambridge, Mass., winning three individual events and a relay. The Red will be looking for Cai to step up in Princeton as well and continue to impress during his rookie season in the water. Following close behind in success last weekend was Newman, a versatile swimmer who has an edge in multiple strokes.
“Michael Cai is probably the League’s best breaststroker, he’s really a standout and I expect him to do really well,” Newman said.
The women’s team did not fair well last weekend, dropping their opening tri-meet to both Dartmouth and Harvard, the team will be looking to bounce back tomorrow.
The Red women had a tough season last year, winning only one Ivy meet, finishing second to last in the ancient eight. The team hasn’t won more than one Ivy meet since 1997. This year the team will be relying on freshman and sophomores to step up and swim fast heats in both individual and relay events.
“We are really focused on the Brown dual meet, the Dartmouth dual meet and the Colgate dual meet,” sophomore Kathleen Hohwald said. “[We hope] to post good times and taper well going into the end of the year Ivy and place well there.”
Of the 13 top-5 finishes for the women last weekend, 12 came from freshman or sophomores. This team will look to capitalize on a lot of young talent that could break out this year or next. Already on pace for a good year, freshmen Heather Miller and Emily Dean picked up two top-5 finishes each.
“We do have a leadership from our seniors and juniors, but I think that the expectations for every team member is to swim fast, and contribute to the team effort.” Hohwald said.
But with such a young team, inexpereince may be a factor as the team looks for a win this weekend. Princeton will be the clear favorite given its stellar roster of returners and freshman.
The Red may have its best shot against Penn. Experience may ultimately factor in at the pool, but judging by top times, some of the Red’s top underclassmen are on pace to put up strong swims against Penn and in some races against Princeton.
“Its definitely harder to swim against faster people,” said Hohwald. “But I think you’re going to swim what you’re going to swim no matter how fast they are, if anything they inspire me to practice harder to get that fast”
This weekend should be an exciting one for Cornell swimming. After a reasonably successful start to the season, it is now up to both the men and women to maintain any momentum they have going into the weekend. The men have a shot at beating Princeton if they can ride the wake, and the women have a chance pull an upset against both Penn and Princeton with some key individual race wins from both veterans and freshmen.