Swimmers start season with win

by Ben Zimmerman | 11/19/03 6:00am

The Dartmouth women's swim team opened their season against Cornell and Harvard last Saturday, and to be quite honest, no one expected much. In recent seasons, successes were few and far between. Four years had passed since Dartmouth tasted an Ivy League victory, a streak of which the Big Red and Crimson were more than aware.

But the Dartmouth women would not be intimidated by past precedent. Confident and determined, they stormed into Ithaca, N.Y. looking for a win. Several hours later, they emerged with just that. Although Harvard escaped unscathed, the Big Green beat Cornell 187-113.

Leading off with a first-place finish in the 200 medley relay, followed by first- and second-place finishes in the 1000 free, Dartmouth seized an early advantage and ran with it. When all was said and done, the Big Green had taken twelve of sixteen events. "There wasn't a weak link in the chain," Dartmouth head coach Joann Brislin noted.

There may not have been a weak link but some proved especially strong. Melissa Kern '07 and co-captain Lauren Gilhooly '04 had huge days. Kern, in the first meet of her collegiate career, grabbed three events, winning what Brislin considers "the toughest triple in a dual meet -- the 1000 free, 200 fly and 500 free." Gilhooly contributed to four wins, taking the 50 and 100 free alone and serving as part of the 200 medley and 400 free relays.

Brislin, though, saw all this coming a mile away. "Honestly, no one surprised me," the coach stated. "I was extremely pleased, but not surprised. They have trained well. The work ethic and positive attitude of this team is awesome. We were prepared to compete and ready to be tough from start to finish."

Whether this victory was truly an upset or a sign of things to come, all agree that it could not have arrived at a better time. For those with short memories, next Monday will mark the one-year anniversary of the administration's decision to cancel the swim program at the end of the 2002-03 season. On that day, coaches were informed that their services would no longer required and swimmers suddenly had no place to compete. Had athletes, coaches, students, alumni and the Student Assembly not banded together, a part of Dartmouth's athletic history would have vanished forever. The significance of this win transcends that of one rival defeating another, or even the fact that Saturday's meet was the first Ivy League win for the team's seniors. Dartmouth's victory over Cornell reaffirmed the swim team's right to exist.

To those who supported the swim team through last year's unrest, the swim team's performance in Ithaca on Saturday showed that for the College to trivialize any of its sports programs is to trivialize anyone who has ever competed under the school's name, entered an NCAA Tournament pool or just dreamed of beating Michael Jordan one-on-one. The women on the swim team understand this, and appreciate the gifts that they have and the opportunities to use them. That is why they battled through a season cast in the shadow of fiscal uncertainty. That is why they fought to get their team back. That is why they went out and won, not just for themselves, but for the students that embraced team when it was down.

Of course, now that the controversy has passed, Brislin and her swimmers are getting back to business: "I appreciate the combination of time, energy and financial resources many gave to assure Dartmouth students the opportunity to participate in swimming and diving during their college years. The elimination period seems like eons ago to me. I'm only looking forward."

The Big Green continues its season this Saturday with a pair of home meets at Karl Michael Pool. On Saturday, the Dartmouth men will kick off their season with a noon meet against Navy and Brown. The women will then look to pick up their second Ivy win of the season when they host Brown at 3 p.m. Then, on Sunday, the Big Green men and women will take on the Catamounts of the University of Vermont, with another noon start time at Karl Michael Pool.

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