Women's swimming fueled by first-years' performances

by Baily Deeter | 1/18/19 2:00am

The Dartmouth women’s swimming team hasn’t been much of a contender in the Ivy League in the past few seasons, but a strong freshman class and a solid start to the 2018-19 season provide significant optimism for the future of the program. 

So far, the team stands at 4-4, a huge improvement from a disappointing 2017-18 season in which it went winless and finished in last place in the Ivy League championships.  

“Our team is more competitive this year than it has been in the past,” coach Jamie Holder said. “I feel really positive about where we are as a team.” 

With a victory over Cornell University already under its belt, its first league victory since 2012, in addition to three other non-conference victories, the team is in position for much better results throughout the rest of the season. 

“We’re moving in the right direction,” Mackenzie Stumpf ’21 said. 

The most positive aspect about the team’s success is that it has been fueled in large part by underclassmen. Mia Leko ’22 won all three of her events in the meet against Cornell and has been a huge contributor for the team this season.  

“Mia has been great,” Stumpf said. “She’s obviously fast, but she works extremely hard in practice and motivates us all to put more effort in.” 

Holder also pointed out Susannah Laster ’22, Ashley Post ’22 and Zoe Wortzman ’22 as three additional first-year women who are contributing at a high level. 

“I think our freshman class is really special,” Leko said. “We’re incredibly close out of the pool, and we’ve had a great season so far.” 

Holder agrees that while the underclassmen bring a lot to the program, the upperclassmen have done a stellar job in leading by example. 

“The juniors and seniors have really bought in to what we’re trying to do, and they’re contributing [significantly],” Holder said. 

The team is led by three senior captains in Laura Barthold ’19, Grace Herron ’19 and Caroline Poleway ’19. Holder believes that the captains and the class as a whole are largely responsible for the program’s turnaround. 

“The whole senior class has done a good job buying into the program and with proactive leadership,” Holder said. 

While it will be difficult to replace the three senior captains and the upperclassmen leadership next year, the Big Green’s young talent leave it in great shape for the 2019-20 season and beyond. Additionally, it appears that the program will only continue to improve, as Leko anticipates a solid recruiting class coming in for next season. 

“Coach Holder came to Dartmouth a few years ago and continues to recruit better and better classes,” Leko said. “We have some really good swimmers coming for next year.” 

Holder is excited to watch the team continue to grow, echoing a similar sentiment.

“We expect a lot of them to come in and contribute right away to push the team to the next level,” Holder said. “It’s a good follow-up to the current freshman class.” 

However, the Big Green still have some business to take care of this season first. The team has a home meet coming up in the end of January, as it will host the Tate Ramsden Invitational. Previously known as the Dartmouth Invitational, the name was changed to honor late Dartmouth swimmer Tate Ramsden ‘17. The team will host the meet on Jan. 25 and 26.  

After that, the team has another home meet against Columbia University the next weekend. While Columbia will present a difficult test for the Big Green, Dartmouth is 2-0 in Hanover this season, as it already has convincing victories over the University of Connecticut and the University of New Hampshire in the friendly confines of Karl Michael Pool. In the Connecticut meet, which took place this past Saturday, the Big Green won in an impressive 154-83 blowout. 

Following the Columbia meet, the team has almost three full weeks to prepare for the annual Ivy League championships, which will take place from February 20-23 at Princeton University. With the elusive Ivy League victory under its belt, the team’s first since 2012, it can now set its sights on passing more Ivy League opponents in the conference hierarchy. 

“I’d like to think that we could beat one or potentially two or three Ivy League teams this year,” Holder said.   “But we’re trying to focus on the things we can control: racing and practicing hard. The scoring will take care of itself, but I do not expect us to be the last place team this year.” 

The team still has some work to do to if it wants to ascend to the top of the Ivy League, but it’s certainly trending in the right direction. If the team’s young talent continues to progress as expected, look for the Big Green to become much more competitive in the coming years. 

Correction appended (Jan. 22, 2019): This article originally misspelled Jamie Holder’s last name as “Holden."