Since head coach Wes Newman ’09 took over at the helm of the Cornell men’s swimming and diving program, the team which he himself spent five years competing for has been trending upwards.
Years prior to Newman’s hiring, the team consistently finished in the basement come Ivy Championship season. Since then, signs of progress and hope has come to light, as the Red pulled out a fifth place team finish at the Ivy League Championships this past week in Harvard’s Blodgett Pool for the second straight year.
This year’s competition was unique since Princeton’s team was not able to participate, leaving more spots open for Cornell’s men to advance from prelims to finals, as well as increasing scoring potential across the board.
“As a whole the team definitely came together pretty well,” Newman said. “Our goal was really to stay ahead of Brown, and we were hoping to maybe make it closer to Yale and Columbia. … We knew on paper that they may have looked a little stronger than us, so we were definitely really happy to beat Brown, especially because before the final day it was still very close.”
But it was an effort on the last day of competition that Newman credits to propelling his squad above the Bears from Providence.
“It was kind of up in the air as to whether or not we’d beat Brown this year, and on the last day our guys really stepped up in prelims and the appropriate finals that we needed to stay ahead of them, and actually increase our lead over them,” he continued.
A major point swing for the Red in the final days of competition came from junior Alex Evdokimov, who swept both of the breaststroke events. Evdokimov won the 200 breaststroke in a time of 1:53.72 and broke his own school and conference records in the 100 breaststroke with a time of 52.13. Evdokimov will continue on to compete at NCAA’s in late March.
Senior captain Luke Reisch swam an NCAA B cut time in the 100 butterfly, scoring 10th in the event with a time of 48.23. Junior Vincent Declercq and freshman Dylan Curtis also posted B cut times; Declercq with a 1:47.57 in the 200 butterfly for an 11th place finish and Curtis with an impressive 47.63 in the 100 back for a fourth place finish.
This year marked the second consecutive fifth-place finish for the Red at the Ivy League Championships. Harvard claimed this season’s title with 1,705 points, followed by Penn with 1,335 points, Columbia with 1,209 points, Yale with 1,115.5 points, Cornell with 858.5 points, Brown with 796 points, and finally, Dartmouth with 561 points.
In terms of relay performances impressive results came in a school-record breaking 200 medley of Curtis, Evdokimov, Reisch and Jack Brenneman, who took third place in a time of 1:26.68 In the 400 free relay, Reisch and Brenneman teamed up with sophomore Trevor Lake and freshman Jack Mahonye for a 5th place finish.
With sights already set on next season, Newman will expect his returning swimmers to step up to fill the leadership roles of the graduating seniors. Even the youngest members of the team will have high expectations, and for good reason. This year’s freshmen were major contributors to the team at the Ivy League Championships, with eight competing and several making crucial point contributions.
“One of the really big performances was on the last day of the meet, the first event, freshman Curtis got into the A finals — the top 8 — of the 200 backstroke,” Newman said. “That was an event that certainly was not a guarantee for us to get anyone into the A final. That was a big point swing for us … It was the ones that were kind of unexpected like Curtis in the 200 backstroke especially that really I think motivated the team and picked them up to have a great last day.”
While the freshman class shows great potential for growth and Newman is confident in the abilities of the returning members of the team to step up into leadership roles, this year’s seniors will be greatly missed by the team, and the Ivy Championships were sentimental as the last time the team would compete together before bidding farewell to the class of 2017.
“The senior class has done a tremendous job in leading the team to success this year and helping everyone have fun on the way,” said sophomore Ian Russiello. “We’ll really miss them next year.”