Last season saw Cornell women’s swimming and diving finish a disappointing seventh at the Ivy League Championships. This year, the Red is looking to step up its game.
The team has already gotten their first taste of competition at a local Ithaca meet against Buffalo, but they are expecting to have the level of competition increase drastically this weekend as they travel to Boston, where they will be competing against MIT and Harvard.
Head coach Patrick Gallagher has expressed his excitement for the future of the team this year. In particular, at last month’s meet against Buffalo, he expressed optimism at the team’s performance, although he noted there were some drawbacks and missteps that need shoring up ahead of this weekend.
“The team performed really well,” he said. “It was a little more sprint format, which I’m not totally sure plays into our strengths yet, … but I think the first half of that meet, we performed exactly as we should have.”
Sophomore swimmer Chloe Mikles, a staff writer for The Sun’s sports department, said that, above all, the team is ready to get back into competition and boasts the confidence necessary to carry them far.
“Our season really ramps up these next few weeks, and it is exciting to get on the road and start competing,” she said. “We have a long way ahead of us until the Ivy League Championships in February, and I am confident in the talent and competitiveness of our team this year to carry us all the way through.”
The team dynamic and chemistry has changed drastically since the 2016-17 season, with the team having lost seven senior swimmers and two now-junior divers. Based on last season’s point totals, Cornell graduated 47 percent of its championship points and three out of its top four scorers from last spring, according to Gallagher.
“We have a big group of freshmen that have picked up from where the seniors have left off in terms of attitude and focus,” he added.
Generally, these new additions to the team, in the form of eight new swimmers, have both the coaching staff and their teammates enthusiastic about potential success.
“They’ve brought a great energy to the team and really know how to get up and race,” Mikles said. “Competition, whether it be against each other in practice or in Ivy League dual meets, makes us all better swimmers.”
The team has also placed a focus on forming a more cohesive group by creating more of a tangible relationship between the swimming and diving teams. The swimming and diving portions of each meet typically occur simultaneously, so each half of the program did not spend as much time watching the other compete due to overlapping competition.
“We are one team — the swim and dive team — and all of us contribute points as a team, together,” said senior diver Sasha Wootton. “People like to think of us as separate … but with [diving coach] Christian [Torres], he’s really helped bring that connection together and really supports [the dive team] being involved with the swimmers.”
There has not been a dramatic change in the practice routines and strategies for the team, but there has been a shift in where each team member puts their focus.
“We spent a lot of time at the beginning of this year saying, you know, we don’t want our goal to be more energized,” Wootton said. “We actually came up with very tangible goals that are measurable, things that we can actually see be achieved or not. For diving, one of our goals is to have two of each gender make it to finals and championships.”
“The team’s work in practice is very focused, and our goals — long-term and day-to-day — [are] more streamlined,” Mikles added.
This weekend the Red will be competing for two consecutive days, on Friday against MIT and on Saturday against Harvard. The Red will be facing off against MIT for the first time in the Red’s varsity program history while the Crimson have amassed 34 wins in the 35 times they have faced the Red. The caliber of these meets will be a sharp start to the season, but it will set the team’s mindset to be ready for everything and anything.
But Gallagher did not seem too concerned about the level of performance the team will be bringing to the table.
“Keeping our foot on the gas is something I think this team will be good at,” he said.