Women’s swim and dive gets ready for Ivy Championships

by Max Zhuang | 2/18/16 6:33pm

From Feb. 18 to 20, the Big Green women’s swim and dive team is competing for not only bragging rights and rankings, but also for team goals and individual bests in the Ivy League Championship in Princeton, New Jersey. On Thursday, the school broke records in the 500-yard freestyle and the 200 freestyle relay. At the end of the day the team was in seventh place with 161 points. The Dartmouth spoke with the team before it left for the meet.

“On the first day, we’re looking to have a strong showing in the freestyle events especially in the 50-yard freestyle and 500-yard freestyle,” head coach Jim Wilson said. “The team is excited and we hope to swim well and that’s about where we stand.”

This year’s group of swimmers include strong freestylers in AnnClaire MacArt ’18, who broke the school record in the 500-yard freestyle twice in the day, and Kendese Nangle ’16, who holds the school record in the 50 freestyle and finished ninth on Thursday. The Big Green, the third seed going into the 200 freestyle relay, finished sixth yesterday, setting a new school record at 1 minute and 32.34 seconds.

“One of my goals is to make an NCAA cut time,” co-captain Charlotte Kamai ’16 said. “I would love to get one in the 100-yard freestyle.”

Kamai added that another goal is to have the Big Green’s 400 freestyle relay team compete at the NCAA level.

Fellow co-captain Olivia Samson ’16 spoke of the unique mental obstacles of this meet. With the swimmers competing in “tech suits” for extra speed and sporting freshly shaven skin to optimize their hydrodynamics in the water by reducing drag, the Big Green brings its absolute best to the annual meet. The team’s weeks of hard work, hours of practice everyday and extra time tapering, decreasing practice yardage as the meet nears, pay off at the meet.

“I think [the practice schedule] adds a new mentality to it,” Samson said. “When we prepare like that, it brings an extra-sense of seriousness amping us up. We’ve put in a lot of work since day one and we have the tools to be really excited to swim our best.”

Swimmers having stellar seasons so far to look out for include Megan Crook ’19, Amber Zimmerman ’19 and MacArt, who all aim to continue their success this week in the Ivy League Championships. Diver Allison Green ’19 placed 12th in the 1-meter dive on Thursday. For the freshmen, the meet represents the biggest competition they have faced in their collegiate careers.

“I’m feeling nervousness mixed with excitement,” Crook said. “It’s such a big meet with some of the top swimmers in the nation, but I’m excited to see how fast I can go. I’m expecting to grab some best times.”

With the combined mental and physical pressures, the team is also aware of its team goals set up at the beginning of the season. This includes taking down a 200 breastroke record (2:17.69) set in 1997 that remains as the longest standing women’s swim record, wiping all the previous standing relay records and, for the seniors, swimming their career bests in their final meet of the season.

“I think it will be a really cool chance to see how well we perform in an invite style meet,” Kamai said. “We have so much talent spread out on the team that I think we have a real chance to beat Columbia, Cornell and Brown [Universities].”

The championship isn’t just an important meet for the nostalgic seniors and eager freshmen. Taylor Yamahata ’18 is a swimmer to keep an eye on during the meet. Yamahata, who won The Dartmouth sports award for best freshman athlete last year, fell ill earlier this season. After a strong freshman campaign, she has spent much of this season recovering, unable to swim at top condition. Now, with proper rest and preparation leading up to the Ivy League Championship, Yamahata poses as a threat to bounce back in the backstroke and individual medley events. She finished 22nd in the 200 IM on Thursday.

“It’s definitely going to be a bittersweet meet for me,” Samson said. “Everyone will totally be decked out in Dartmouth gear and we plan on showing the most team spirit. We’re all putting in our hearts and souls and hopefully this will be a great finish to an amazing season.”

Kamai noted for the past four years, she has anchored all the relays she has swam in.

“On Saturday night, the last event of the meet, I’ll be exactly where I want to be anchoring the 400-yard relay racing for the team one last time,” Kamai said.