Swim and Dive plagued with illness, heads to UNYSCSA

Junior Jonah Strand leads efforts in Feb. 1 meet against Montclair State with wins in 200 IM and 100 breaststroke. Both swim and dive teams will compete in the UNYSCSA Championships on Feb. 15. / Courtesy of Carlisle Stockton

The Vassar men’s swimming team lost a tough battle to Montclair State on Wednesday, Feb. 1. With multiple swimmers unable to compete due to illness, the Brewers faltered against the Hawks and fell 3.5-126.5.

The night started off with a second place finish in the 200 medley relay from senior Anthony Walker. Walker had a great meet, posting incredible times in the 200 free and the 100 fly. Continuing the success, fellow senior Chris Cerutti added a fourth place finish in the 200 free and earned second place in the 100 backstroke, with respective times of 1:55.91 and 58.74. In the 100 backstroke junior Luke Morrison and senior Patrick Lai finished behind Cerutti to clinch third and fourth place titles.

Junior Jonah Strand was another asset for Vassar, finishing the 200 IM in 1:59.97 and 100 breaststroke in 59.42, securing two first place finishes for the Brewers. Strand was not alone in earning points for VC in these events, as Morrison and Lai collected points while finishing in third and second place, respectively.

For the 50 free, freshman Matthew Imiolek tied for second place with a time of 23.91 as fellow freshman Harrison Tyler finished right behind at 24.08 for third place.

In the final event, the 200 freestyle relay, the seniors finished out their final home meet on a strong note. The Vassar relay squad of Cerutti, Walker, Imiolek and freshman Yoav Yaron finished in 1:36.01. Following them, a team consisting of Morrison, Taylor, senior Walter Gabriel and sophomore Michael Colletta put up a time of 1:37.72.

Unfortunately, however, the Brewers were unable to collect enough points to secure the win in their last home meet of the season.

Head Coach Lisl Prater-Lee stated, “We knew going into the meet that they had a solid combination of strength and depth in many events. That helped us prepare, though.”

Even though they did not emerge victorious, the Brewer squad still sees a lot of promise for the upcoming Upper New York State Collegiate Swimming Association (UNYSCSA) Championships in two weeks.

Walker was proud of the way several swimmers helped fill the void of those out for illness and injury. “I think that we did a pretty good job all around at Montclair State, considering how many fewer swimmers we had than they,” Walker noted.

Walker also specifically pointed out several swimmers who stepped up and performed admirably despite the team’s adversity. He mentioned, “Yoav Yaron swam the 500 freestyle and Walter Gabriel swam the 1000 freestyle. Matt Imiolek was asked to fill in some important roles as a sprint freestyler, even though he’s primarily a breaststroker.”

Walker continued, “All of them put out some great races despite the fact they had some really tough competition.”

Also highlighting Strand’s performance on Wednesday, Walker shared, “He had a great meet, breaking 2:00 in the 200 IM and 1:00 in the 100 breast, both enough to win the event.”

Although Walker was proud of the way the team stepped up under extenuating circumstances, he knows the team needs to put a lot of focus into their practices over the next two weeks in preparation for the UNYSCSA Championships. Walker said that the team is going to focus on race details, which means “making sure that our starts, turns and breakouts are as fast as possible.”

Walker also noted that the team has ample time to prepare, which allows the team to “rest a bit more and take especially good care of our bodies to prevent the possibility of illness or injury and to ensure we are at peak performance”.

Teammates join Walker in this optimism. Going into the UNYSCSA championships, Strand stated, “Our times are where they need to be going into our final two weeks of the season.”

The team has developed this confidence due to recent success, which the Brewers attribute to their seniors. Strand shared, “Senior leadership has been really helpful during training this season. Anthony and Chris have stepped up as role models outside the pool and as team captains, and I wouldn’t be having the season I am without their support.”

Even with confidence, Vassar acknowledges that hard work and strong performances are needed for success at the UNYSCSA Championships. Strand believes that the squad must pay attention to detail in practice the next two weeks. “Our team really needs to focus on our finals details and race strategies going into States. We’ve been doing a lot of work on sprint kicking and turns, which will give us that extra edge,” explained Strand.

Leading into the final weeks of the season, Head Coach Prater-Lee cannot attribute the team’s success to any particular athletes. She has a lot of respect for the way the team has grown this season.

“I give a lot of credit to our men’s team, period. Yes, we’ve had some individuals who have been able to step into other events and individuals who have really grown in their more typical events. Either way, the men’s squad has grown through the season. They have a lot to be proud of, each of them,” Prater-Lee complimented.

In preparation for the UNYSCSA championships, Prater-Lee shortens practice to allow for higher intensity because she feels that the team has a lot of potential. “We know we have something bigger that we can accomplish as individuals and as a team just in front of us,” Prater-Lee shared.

Looking at last year for reference, the Brewers finished in eighth out of 15 teams at the 2016 UNYSCSA Championships. Two notable performances include those from recent graduate Alex May and senior Chris Cerutti, who both broke Vassar records. May rewrote the records for the 1000 free and 1650 free, finishing in mile in 16:37.68. Meanwhile, Cerutti replaced the 200 backstroke with a time of 1:58.45.

Looking to break more records, the Brewers head into their final meet of the season at Ithaca College on Feb. 15th in the UNYSCSA Championships.

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