Both the women’s and men’s swimming and diving teams finished strong seasons this Saturday at the Upper New York State Collegiate Swimming Association, or UNYSCSA, Championships in Ithaca, N.Y. At the championships, Vassar competed against 16 teams, including nine from the Liberty League. After four days of competition, the men’s team finished in eighth place out of 15 teams overall, while the women’s team placed sixth out of 16 teams. The Vassar women’s sixth place ranking is the Brewers’ best finish to date in the UNYSCSA Championships.
In fact, the men’s team had at least one man score in the top 24 in each of the individual events for all four days of competition. While the same cannot be said for the women’s team, the team had women place in the top 24 for many events, and even had more than one woman score within the top 24 in particular events. Sophomore Luke Morrison stated, “We had an awesome meet as both a men and women’s team with a ton of new school records and lifetime bests.”
Individually, the swimmers excelled, with a majority of the team members achieving new personal bests and surpassing Vassar’s previous school records. In just four days, the men’s swimming and diving team achieved 34 lifetime bests, 44 season bests, and broke eight of Vassar’s records. Freshman Alex May finished his first season as a Brewer very strong, breaking two school records. May beat two records in the 1000- yard Free and the 1650-yard Free, both of which had been previously held by graduate Ben Chung since 1999.
Junior Anthony Walker broke his own 2015 record for the 100 Fly, finishing in 51.45 seconds. Sophomore Jonah Strand also swam incredibly, breaking three different school records. Strand first beat Jack Smart’s 2010 record for 200-yard IM when he finished in just 1:56.67 minutes. Not showing any fatigue on day three, Strand then shattered both the 50- yard and 100-yard Breast records by at least one second in each race. Junior Chris Cerutti also bested the six-year-old 200-yard Back record that was held by Nick Veazie, when Cerutti finished the race in 1:58.45 minutes.
Together, senior Isaiah Hale, junior Anthony Walker, freshmen Ian LaBash and Alex May beat the 800- yard Free relay by an astonishing four seconds when they finished in 7:12.94 minutes.
The women’s team also performed phenomenally, achieving 33 lifetime bests, 47 season bests, and setting four new records for the Brewers. Last year’s All-American junior Julia Cunningham was the only one to break a record individually when she surpassed Blaire Fromm’s 2007 record in the 50-yard Fly. Cunningham swam hard for the Brewers, racing in 16 events total and helping Vassar dominate the events and earn their sixth place standing.
In Ithaca, the women’s team dominated as cohesive units, with three women’s relay groups setting new Vassar records at the UNYSCSA championships. The relay group made up of seniors Milee Nelson, Anna Kuo and Lily Frye, and junior Julia Cunningham broke the 2005 record for the 200 Medley relay. Then Nelson, Cunningham and Frye surpassed another record with freshman Hayley Schultz when they finished the 400 Medley relay in 4:03.93 minutes. Cunningham and Nelson went on to break a third record together in the 800 free relay with freshman Sammy Stone and senior Marie Schmidt.
Each year, Vassar performs excellently at the UNYSCSA championships, and this year was no exception. Throughout the entire competition, the Brewers fought hard and achieved a lot of great accomplishments, both as individuals and as a team. “I’m so proud of everyone,” sophomore diver Nora Kyrkjebø shared, “We really came together as a team and kept the momentum going from day one by cheering each other on and keeping spirits up even if we were tired. It was definitely tiring having to be at the pool 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. for four days, but having my teammates there made it fun and worth it.” Although the Brewers had to compete for four grueling days, they did not lose any momentum, still breaking records on final days of the championships.
Several of Vassar’s swimmers and divers also received recognition for academic achievement and overall high performance. For the men’s team, Isaiah Hale, Clancy Green, Connor Martin, Luke Morrison, Greg Cristina, Chris Cerutti, Anthony Walker and Jonah Strand were all named UNYSCSA All-Academic Team. On the women’s side, Lily Frye, Anna Kuo, Nora Kyrkjebø, Emily McDaniels, Milee Nelson, Maya Pruitt, Marie Schmidt, Kayla Schwab and Julia Wieczore were also named members of UNYSCSA’s All-Academic Team. Meanwhile, Sammy Stone’s great performance earned her “Rookie of the Week” accolades, while Julia Cunningham and Jonah Strand earned Honor Roll mentions.
The UNYSCSA championships in Ithaca mark the end of the Brewer’s long and successful six-month season. Head coach Lisl Prater-Lee elaborated, “We had a very successful season. Dual meets, Liberty Leagues and Seven Sisters (for the women only) prepared us well for the UNYSCSA championships. We had six divers with a new diving coach Jack Ferriter who all made incredible improvements throughout the season and really helped us be more competitive as a bigger team and program.”
Similar to their coach, Vassar’s swimmers and divers also smile back at a great 2015-2016 season. “The season went really well!” According to Morrison, “The program is growing a lot and that was evidenced by how we did this season.” This season, both teams overcame major feats and made a strong presence in Liberty League and non-conference competition. Highlights include the men’s team victory over both Skidmore College and Bard College and their first place finish out of five teams in the Vassar Sprint Invitational. Although the men’s team was small, consisting of only 15 members, “we were able to figure out how we could be as competitive as possible as a group and that paid off at the UNYSCSA champions meet,” explained Coach Prater-Lee.
The women’s team also defeated both Skidmore and Bard and had victories over non-conference matches Trinity College and New Paltz. The women’s team also placed second out of five teams in Seven Sisters Championships, third out of 10 teams in the Liberty League Championships, and first of five in the Vassar Sprint Invitational. Overall, both teams had strong performances and competed well throughout the season.
Kyrkjebø stated, “Our season has been long, hard, intense but so rewarding. I improved ten-fold as a diver and that’s because of my amazing coach, Jack, and having fantastic teammates who are getting in the pool or on the diving boards with me every single day from September to February.”
With the end of the season, the Vassar swimming and diving teams now sadly bid farewell to their eight seniors Lily Frye, Anna Kuo, Milee Nelson, Maya Pruitt, Marie Schmidt, Greg Cristina and Isaiah Hale after a great four years. “They have come a long way and contributed considerably during their four years,” Coach Prater-Lee explained, “We have school record holders in that group. We have solid, consistent competitors in that group, athletes we have come to rely on over time. With that understood, we have some tough shoes to fill with their graduation.” Over the last four years, the seniors have set many new school records, including some in their last few days competing as a Vassar Brewer at the championships in Ithaca. Their talents and presence will certainly be missed.
Kyrkjebø admitted, “It’s going to be impossible to say bye to the seniors and a lot of us were getting emotional on the pool deck on the final day of states. We are a very tight team, and we are all best friends so it is going to be hard but we are all excited to see where they go!”
Nevertheless, both the coaches and the swimmers and divers have high hopes for next season. “We look forward to carrying this enthusiasm and energy and success through the spring and summer so that new team members have a chance experience so many of the great things happening with VCSD,” explained Coach Prater-Lee. “We are improving, certainly, but we are improving as one bigger group. It’s a big, successful family atmosphere of swimmers and divers who share the pool but also really value the time spent together working towards common goals.”