Men’s swim and dive team heads to Ivy League Championships

by Gayne Kalustian | 2/26/14 6:20pm

2-27-14-sports-swimming-natalie-cantave
2.27.14.sports.swimming
by Natalie Cantave / The Dartmouth

The men’s swimming and diving team travels to Harvard University to compete in the Ivy League Championship meet this weekend. At last year’s competition in Providence, Dartmouth took fifth with 768 points, 270.5 points behind fourth place Yale University.

Head coach Jim Wilson said that the team is looking to lock up a position in the middle of the League.

“If you have good swims and good times the points will come,” he said. “Princeton and Harvard are both extremely strong teams, but outside of that, I think it’s anybody’s game.”

The team is looking for repeat performances from some of its top swimmers and divers who brought home big points last season. Co-captain Nejc Zupan ’14, took first place in the 200-yard individual medley with a time of 1:43.94, the new pool record at Brown at the time and just .32 seconds off of the event’s NCAA A-cut. Swimming a 3:44.39, Zupan also took first in the 400-yard individual medley, another pool record, and took first in the 200-yard breaststroke with a 1:53.95.

Led by powerhouse Zupan, the team has a strong set of swimmers competing in breaststroke that the team is expecting to do well, Wilson said, including Jay Schulte ’15, Konrad von Moltke ’15, Timo Vaimann ’17 and Patrick Kang ’17.

Zupan has the opportunity to join a very short list of athletes in the Ivy League record book who were champions for three consecutive years.

Zupan, who won back-to-back titles in the 400-yard individual medley, could join Ted Pollard ’77, the three-time 100 yard backstroke Ivy League Champion from 1975-1977, as the only Big Green swimmer to three-peat at Ivies.

Zupan is also the breaststroker for the 400-yard medley relay, most likely joining James Verhagen ’16, Daniel Whitcomb ’16 and either co-captain Andrew North ’14 or Dave Harmon ’17, though the lineup has not been finalized. The relay, Verhagen said, is probably the team’s strongest.

Verhagen is one of Dartmouth’s other top backstroke contenders, having taken second place at the Ivies last year in both the 100-yard and 200-yard backstroke with times of 47.55 and 1:44.23, respectively.

Verhagen’s personal 100-yard backstroke record is 46.96, and, he said, if he can get that down to 46.7, he believes he has a good shot at making A-cuts for the NCAA swim championships.

In an interesting move, Wilson has decided to bring four divers with him to the meet, as opposed to three, like the team has brought in the past. Wilson said he has faith that the divers will prove indispensable to the team and outperform all the other Ancient Eight diving programs.

Divers typically place consistently as a team, said diver Brett Gillis ’16, who said he hopes to at least finish top three on one board.

Gillis, who handily stole Dartmouth’s long-standing three-meter record just weeks ago at Columbia, is currently the team’s top diver.

The mounting pressure of the competition, North said, represents a season that has thrown adversity at the team, and the Ivy League Championships presents a higher level than any other meet in the season.

“Ivies is a different environment, and it can be a lot of pressure on freshmen,” he said. “It’s important for me to kind of be there to ensure that they’re handling it well, and, more importantly, help show how the team has grown throughout the year.”

The team will compete Thursday through until Saturday, March 1.