After four days of the final Liberty League Championship competition hosted by Ithaca College last week, the men and women of the Vassar College swimming and diving teams have come to the end of their seasons. With only eight swimmers and two divers sent to the competition, the men managed to secure seventh place overall.
The women finished in fourth place overall, breaking a Vassar record for total points scored at a Liberty League Championship meet.
The championships for each team began with preliminary swimming rounds, followed by the same for diving in the afternoon. The 24 swimmers that finished at the top of these preliminaries returned later that night to compete in the A, B or C finals.
The men’s team started off the four days of competition with a bang, besting handfuls of school, personal and lifetime records alike. First-year Max White, from Green Bay, Wisconsin, started his day by breaking the longest-standing 500 freestyle record for Vassar College men’s swim and dive. The previous record of 4:43.55, set by Ben Chung ’03, stood for 18 years before being smashed by White’s time of 4:40.39. This impressive performance during preliminaries locked in White for second seed of the A finals.
The Brewers continued to break records in the 500 freestyle swim, as sophomore Jordan Kalina shaved over 16 seconds off of his season best, earning a personal best time of 4:46.24. This secured him a slot in the A finals as fifth seed. First-year Finn Belanger then shattered his lifetime best in the 500 freestyle, earning a time of 5:11.13 and a place in the C finals.
The record-breaking performances did not slow as the day continued.
As the second swim of the day began, senior standout Jonah Strand raced to finish the 200 individual medley in his best time of the season, 1:56.76. In the finals, Strand earned not only a personal best in the same swim, but also a new school record, with a time of 1:55.20. In the night’s finals, White came back to swim against the defending champions of the 500 freestyle, earning a time of 4:35.18. This astounding time not only reset a school record, but also broke a Liberty League Championship record, and made White the second male swimmer ever to win a conference title at Vassar College. Belanger posted a lifetime best of 5:08.68 in the same swim, while Strand swam a personal best of 1:55.20 in the 200 individual medley, setting a new school record in the process.
The following days of the competition saw some equally-impressive performances. On the second day of championships, White crushed another school record in the 200 freestyle. He later teamed up with Strand, Harrison Taylor ‘20 and Matthew Imiolek for the 400 medley relay, earning a place in the A finals with a time of 3:39.07. On his own, Taylor advanced to the 400 individual medley finals, posting a lifetime best of 54.45.
Taylor, one of the captains of men’s swim, continued to improve his game. On the third morning, he posted a season best time of 2:07.75 on the 200 fly to make it into the consolation bracket. In the finals, he pushed even harder to earn a lifetime best of 2:04.32, finishing 14th overall. Strand earned a spot in the 100 breaststroke championship final with a time of 58.09, the best time he has earned all season. Kalina followed the smashing trend in his 1650 freestyle, finishing in just 16:23, a lifetime best and the second fastest in Vassar history. Junior Marvin Corleto, one of the two divers sent to the championships, earned a 225.85 in the one-meter diving event, the highest score of his life thus far. Imiolek kept his composure as the final day of championships rolled around, swimming a lifetime best in the 100 freestyle to secure a spot in the finals. Once there, he beat this record once again, posting a 49.81 to bring points home for the Brewers. White continued his outstanding performance, cracking another Vassar record, which he already held, in the 200 backstroke with a new time of 1:56.48. The first-year was named Liberty League Male Rookie of the Year, joining Vassar’s only other Rookie of the Year, Chung, who won this title in 1999. White contributed 86 points to the Brewers’ total of 568, which put them in seventh overall.
“I’m very excited that I was recognized by the Liberty League Conference,” White commented. “I’ve put in a lot of extra time and effort by going to morning practices, changing my routine and more to help prepare. Considering some of the freshmen talents on other teams this year, as well as the amazing freshmen on the Vassar swim team, it’s a great honor.”
Though the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute took home the gold with 1621 points, the four days were filled with countless smashed records and outstanding personal performances all around. Placing seventh was a great accomplishment for the Brewers at this competition, considering the small quantity of swimmers and divers that attended the championships. “For having such a small squad on our side, placing where we did was amazing,” White said. “We had so many people earn best times, and even improve their times from preliminaries to finals!” With the end of this competition, the Brewers graduate seniors Strand and Connor Martin from the program.
The women came out just as fiercely once championships began, sitting in third after just the first day. Junior Kael Ragnini was one of three swimmers who made it to the finals for the 500 freestyle, reaching the A bracket with a time of 5:16.80. She shaved off almost a full second from this time that night in the finals. In the next swim, senior Emily McDaniels made it to the B finals by finishing the 200 individual medley in 2:17.15, a season personal best. Similarly to the men, the women saw multiple newcomers crush their lifetime best times in various swims. First-year Stephanie Kaplan swam a quick 25.52 in the 50 freestyle, heading to the B final, while fellow firstyear Brynn Lautenbacher qualified for the A final with a 24.70. She slightly beat this time yet again that night with a 24.62. Lautenbacher had an exceptional following day as well in the 100 butterfly. With a time of just 57.84, she flew by the rest of the swimmers in the preliminary race, finishing in first place and earning a clear ticket to the A final. She later on beat this time with a 57.31, becoming Vassar’s first Liberty League Champion, and securing the first-ever Liberty League 100 butterfly title for the Brewers. “I’m very proud of my 100 freestyle performance,” Lautenbacher expressed. “I’ve trained sprint freestyles a lot more this year than I have in the past, and it showed in my race.” However, she believes she can push this time even further down in the years to come, adding,“There is definitely still room for improvement. I hope to beat that time again next season.”
The second day saw another impressive show from the 400 medley relay team, consisting of first-years Rhea Randhawa and Stephanie Kaplan and juniors Haley Schultz and Lautenbacher. They posted a time of 3:55.43, shattering the old Vassar record of 3:59.81. In this medley, Randhawa hammered out a lifetime best of 57.96 in her leg of the race.
Going into day three, the Brewers still sat in third place with 525.5 points. Despite falling into fifth early on in the day, Schultz and first-year Shannon Schrope helped the Brewers crawl back up to fourth place with their 100 breaststrokes. Schultz swam a 1:07.10 for third place, while Schrope earned a 1:06.14 to qualify for the championship finals. In the same swim, Kaplan swam a season best of 1:11.63, while sophomore Abby Kirsch swam a season best of 1:16.62.
That night, at the finals, Schrope finished in second place for the 50 breaststroke, while Kaplan finished second in the consolation finals for the 100 breaststroke, earning a season best 1:10.51. For the same 100 breaststroke swim, sophomores Laura Vidano and Sarah Boese earned participation in the bonus C final, swimming season bests of 1:06.63 and 1:06.43 respectively.
The Brewers finished the third day needing 822 additional points in order to break the Vassar College record that was set at a Liberty League meet in the 2015 season. Halfway through the finals on the last day of the competition, the women met this goal and ended the meet with a total of 963.5 points. While Vassar has finished higher than fourth place before, the peak of total points that the swimmers and divers accumulated suggests their growing strength in individual and team performances. Lautenbacher started the final day with her typical 100 freestyle, qualifying for the finals, where she took seventh place with a season best time of 54.24. Junior Sammy Stone won the consolation final for the same swim with a 53.96, which is the fastest anybody on the team has swum all season. The record-breaking moment for the Brewers came when first-timer Randhawa finished third for the 100 freestyle in a time of 2:06.8, earning 27 points and tipping the Brewers over the past school record.
For her last Vassar swim, Cali Corbett earned 12 points on a season best mile time of 19:05.81, while senior Nora Kyrkjebo earned a total of 347 points for the Brewers for her final diving performance. The team will not only graduate these two impressive contributors, but also senior captains Madison Carroll and McDaniels, as well as senior diver Katie Nordstrom. These five leave Vassar holding the new school record and an impressive fourth-place finish. “Our team is beyond proud overall,” Lautenbacher concluded about the final meet of the season. “Earning the most points ever for Vassar is a huge accomplishment for us. We were also the highest-scoring team without a full roster, which goes to show how much more we can still accomplish as the team grows.”