Men’s swim and dive finishes in eighth, Verhagen '16 scores 54 points

by Max Zhuang | 2/28/16 6:30pm

The Dartmouth men’s swim and dive team finished in eighth place overall during the men’s Ivy League Championship with 491.5 points. The meet ended Saturday afternoon with several of the Big Green’s swimmers setting personal best times despite the team finishing in last place overall.

“It’s tough to finish last in the league,” head coach Jim Wilson said. “And the league improves every year, so that even when you’re getting your personal best times and getting faster, so does the entire league.”

The meet was Brett Gillis ’16’s final Ivy League performance. During the preliminaries of the 3-meter dive, Gillis was in first place putting up 351.60 points. However, Gillis dropped to seventh place in the finals of the 3-meter dive (293.10). Contributing a total of 48 points to the team, Gillis took a fifth place finish on the 1-meter dive (289.10).

“Diving can be a really volatile sport,” Gillis said. “A few mistakes dropped me from 350 to 290 points which was really rough.”

His large point total contributed to his total career point total of 189. At the end of the meet, Gillis was named the Ron Keenhold Career High Point Diver, an award presented by former Dartmouth swim and dive coach Keenhold in person. The award is given to a senior diver every year who has contributed the most points toward his team throughout the course of his collegiate career. Keenhold coached at Dartmouth for 40 years and was an All-American diver.

“I’m pretty sure my coach mentioned the award to me a couple days before,” Gillis said. “I was more focused on my individual events, and I wasn’t feeling that great after the finals in my events brought me down from first place to seventh. It was a nice surprise at the end to have Ron give me the award. It definitely picked up my spirits and helped me look at the bigger picture.”

Co-captain James Verhagen ’16 came up huge for the Big Green, finishing in third place in the 100-yard backstroke (47.53) and making an NCAA B cut time.

“I thought this meet had a lot of emotion attached to it,” Verhagen said. “For a number of reasons, such as swimming the Ivies without Tate, the last meet for us seniors, and for Jim [Wilson]. We handled all of our emotion maturely using it to move our swimming forward.”

Verhagen was able to follow up his 100 backstroke performance with a strong fourth place finish in the 200 backstroke (1:43.57), earning him a school record and another NCAA B cut time. Verhagen finished half of a second behind the first place finisher.

“I knew I had a chance of winning going into the 200,” Verhagen said. “The winning time was also slower than everyone expected, but for me, I had to come back a lot on the last 50, so I didn’t realize how close I was to winning. Looking back, it makes me wish I had just swam half a second quicker and gotten an Ivy victory.”

During the meet, Verhagen contributed a team high of a total of 54 points.

“Records in the Ivy League fall at an incredible clip,” Wilson said. “It’s amazing as I believe we’re the fourth fastest swimming league in the country, but that also means we have to be get much faster to not only stay where we were but to remain competitive.”

In the 1650 freestyle, Carter Jacobsen ’19 took 19th place (15:43.01), dropping almost a whopping 30 seconds from his seed time. In the 100 freestyle, Aaron Athanas ’16 tied for 21st (44.97). Tony Shen ’18 swam in the 200 backstroke and touched in 24th (1:49.96).

In the 200 breaststroke, Delaney Hall ’19 came in 22nd (2:02.90), touching a tenth of a second ahead of the swimmer in 23rd from the University of Pennsylvania. In the 200 butterfly, David Harmon ’17 finished in 17th (1:49.96), missing the school record by less than half a second. Logan Briggs ’16 came in 20th (1:50.90), Brandon Boval ’18 was 21st (1:51.46) and Robert Purvis ’19 took 22nd (1:51.71).

“We had probably half of our swimmers swim their personal bests and about half not,” Wilson said. “It’s really exciting for the swimmers to swim their best times ever.”

Wilson will not be returning next season, leaving a team that he has coached for 23 years.

“Jim’s seen everything this team has been through,” Verhagen said. “He’s seen and coached the best swimmers this school’s ever had. I think all the swimmers would back me up in saying that he’s been a great coach to the team as well as a mentor to all of us.”