Swimming teams finish seasons in last, seek to rebuild programs

by Alex Leibowitz and Max Zhuang | 3/3/17 1:45am

On the final two weekends in February, the Big Green swimming and diving teams capped off their seasons at the Ivy League Championship meets. The men and women both finished last, but Holder and his athletes say the championship performances bode well for the program.

“We finished where I expected us to,” Holder said. “I didn’t anticipate that we would beat anybody this year, but I was really pleased by how we swam for both the men’s and women’s teams. We swam a lot of best times, which is what we’re measuring ourselves on.”

From Feb. 15 to 18, the women wrapped up the 2017 season at the Katherine Moran Coleman Aquatics Center at Brown University. The team finished with 358 points, behind seventh-place Cornell University with 653 points. Yale University’s 1,681 points won the Ivy League title, unseating defending champion Harvard University.

Although no Big Green swimmers or divers made the cut for the All-Ivy team, several athletes set personal best times, which members of the team looks to improve upon for the next season.

Standout performances included AnnClaire MacArt ’18’s 1,000-yard freestyle, in which she set a personal record of 9:58.71. MacArt also swam to a ninth-place finish in the 1650-yard freestyle. The 200-yard medley relay team — comprised of Caroline Poleway ’19 , Sam Norton ’20, Kaitlyn McCaw ’20 and Maddie Dunn ’17 — finished in eighth, but the group set its best time for the season at 1:44.45.

“I was not really focused on time — I just wanted to see what I could do and leave the pool without any regrets,” MacArt said. “I really learned a lot about racing this weekend and learning to have fun with races. What matters is swimming your own race and not caring about what other people are doing as much.”

Even though MacArt has had a standout individual season, including second place finishes in the 1000-yd free and the 500-yard freestyle in the tri-meet with Harvard and Cornell, she looks for herself and the team to come back even faster next season.

“As a team, we are still currently adjusting to the presence of having a new coach,” MacArt said. “We are really in a transitional period right now, so we will work through some of those aspects.”

The men’s team, whose season concluded last weekend at Harvard, are also in transition. The men finished in seventh place overall, but only seven squads competed at the championship meet after Princeton University’s team was suspended in mid-December for sending vulgar emails about the women’s team. The Dartmouth men’s team earned 561 points, while Harvard’s 1,705 points took the overall crown.

Two Dartmouth divers finished in the top eight this year. During the A final on the 3-meter board, Taylor Clough ’17 took fourth (296.70), while A.J. Krok ’19 was sixth (282.15), and together, the pair earned 50 points. On the third day of the championships, David Harmon ’17 broke his own Dartmouth record time for the 100-yard butterfly formerly set in 2015 (48.05 seconds), placing ninth in the finals (47.95s).

Although this was the third consecutive season both the men’s and women’s teams have both trailed the Ivy League, Big Green swimmers have voiced optimism for the future of the program. Henry Patrick ’19, one of the top young swimmers on the team, believes the championship meet is a sign of better things to come.

“Individually, we all performed better than last year, and that’s what really matters,” Patrick said.

In his first year, Holder has worked to foster a culture shift in the Big Green program, emphasizing individual improvement as a necessary part of the process to make the team competitive in the Ivy League. “For me personally, I need to do more offseason training,” Patrick said. “I’m just realizing how much I need to do offseason training now. When I was a freshman, I really didn’t think about it too much before, but now I know to improve I need to stay in shape and at a high level of fitness.”

Patrick, who spent his first year on the team under former head coach Jim Wilson, says that Holder brings a higher level of enthusiasm.

“It’s a different energy, and he’s so passionate, which is encouraging,” Patrick said. “I think the big difference between this year and last year is that you could tell this was [Holder]’s first year, and he was just all about the team and us.”

In Holder’s view, this season is the beginning of a rebuilding process to make the men’s and women’s teams Ivy League Championship contenders in the near future.

“I plan on developing our depth and overall competitiveness.” Holder said, “I’m really excited about the new recruits, and I think that in three to five years we should be in the thick of things.”

Ultimately, Holder wants to reach a milestone the Big Green program has not approached in 60 seasons of men’s and 40 seasons of women’s swimming and diving.

“It is my goal to win an Ivy League title,” he said.