This week marks the singularly most important meet of the year for the Vassar College men’s and women’s swimming and diving teams. For this year’s seniors, it also marks the final meet of their competitive athletic careers. After this meet, only Nationals and for the divers, Regionals remain and only a few will qualify. From Feb. 17 to 20, both teams will be in Ithaca, competing in the Upper New York State Collegiate Swimming Association (UNYSCSA) Championships. The Brewers will be among 16 total teams from around New York and this includes nine Liberty League teams, again including the Brewers.
On the women’s side, Vassar finished eighth out 16 teams. This year the Brewer women managed to improve and chalk up one of their best ever Liberty League finishes. They also placed second at the Seven Sisters Championships. After a season of immense success, the women look to continue improving and breaking personal as well as school records. Last season, the women broke seven records during the UNYSCSA Championships. Junior Julia Wieczorek, a breaststroke and freestyle specialist, explained how much this event meant to her team. “It’s our final competitive meet of the season, and for most of us it’s the end of season meet. It’s basically the pinnacle of our season, and all of our hard work for the season will be showcased!”
This year, the women’s team features a strong contingent of returners with tons of competitive experience, including junior captain and 2015 All-American Julia Cunningham, but it also features a ton of freshmen talent. Early on in the meet, freshman Sammy Stone is seeded second in the 500 freestyle and is one of just two freshmen currently in the top ten. Freshman Kael Ragnini is No. 11 in the event while seniors Marie Schmidt and Milee Nelson are also in scoring position for the event. Cunningham is currently ranked fifth in the 200 IM while teammate freshman Hayley Schultz will also compete in the event, the fourth of the competition, as she is ranked in the top twelve. Senior Captain Lily Frye is ranked No. 12 in the 50 meter free.
Looking then at the relays, the 200 medley relay will feature both an A and B squad. The A squad is seeded fourth, while the B is No. 12 overall but fourth amongst B squads. Cunningham, who will compete in the next big event, the 400 IM, is currently ranked second and has already achieved an NCAA ‘B’ cut time and is ranked No. 37 in the country. Senior Anna Kuo is ranked No. 17. Immediately after the 400 IM, Cunningham will compete in the 100 Fly, where she is seeded second, with a time just 0.45 seconds off an NCAA ‘B’ cut. Stone then will compete in the 200 free ranked fourth and is just a second off of the first ranked time.
Senior Maya Pruitt and sophomore Nora Kyrkejebo will compete in the 1m dive and look to earn season and personal bests. Cunningham is seeded third in the 200 fly, her All-American earning event last season, and is No. 20 nationally. Nelson and Ragnini will look to earn points in the 100 backstroke while Schultz is third in the 100 breaststroke, Kuo is No. 13 and Wieczorek is No. 34. All three will attempt to score for the Brewers.
Stone will also compete on the final day swimming collegiate swimming’s longest event, the mile. Ragnini, Schmidt and Sophomore Cali Corbett are all in scoring position for the 1650. Then Frye, Covaci and freshman Meg Harrington will compete in the 100 meter free. Ragnini will go on to compete as the No. 20 seed in the 200 backstroke, Nelson is No. 22 and Schmidt is No.26. Finally, Cunningham and Schultz sixth and seventh respectively in the 200 breaststroke will join Kuo to try and score for the Brewers.
Wieczorek has been proud of both squads this season. “Our season has been incredible. With a strong start win against New Paltz, record-high finishes at Seven Sisters (second place), Liberty League Championships (third place for the women) and Vassar’s sprint invite (first place for men and women). Our team dynamic has been close knit and cohesive, and we’ve been encouraging each other throughout,” she said.
On the men’s side, the team is looking to improve on the ninth place finish they had last year. Junior Anthony Walker is attempting to earn a spot at nationals for both fly events while sophomore Jonah Strand is looking to earn a spot in the 100 and 200 breaststroke. Freshman Ian LaBash will compete in the first event, the 500 free and is seeded No. 17 as of now. Strand and Walker will both compete in the 200 IM. Junior Clancy Green, freshman Marvin Corleto and sophomore Connor Martin will all dive this weekend.
The Brewers’ 400 medley relay is the ninth seed. Additionally, Walker, who is currently ninth in the 200 fly will attempt to earn the NCAA B cut time. From there, Cristina and Cerutti are in the top 24 for the 100 backstroke. Strand is less than a second off the time of the first seed in the 100 breaststroke. May is No. 11 in the mile and will attempt to earn a shot in the “A” final for this event. Strand will then compete in the 200 breaststroke, in which he is ranked seventh. Finally, the Brewers’ will enter the 400 free relay, where the team is currently seeded No. 15.
Last year the men broke five school records and most, if not all the Brewers swimmers set career or lifetime bests. Both squads may begin using the Ithaca College facility as a future Liberty League Championship site as the Ithaca College Bombers are set to enter the Liberty League in the 2017-2018 season. At this year’s UNYSCSA, both the men’s and women’s teams will aim to build on their successes from this season and last year in order to qualify for Regionals and Nationals.