Swimming and diving teams win Tate Ramsden invitational

by Anna May Mott | 1/31/20 2:00am

Last weekend both Dartmouth swimming and diving teams defeated the University of Massachusetts Amherst in the Tate Ramsden Invitational, their last home meet of the season. The men finished with a score of 187.5 to UMass’s 142.5, while the women won 189-136. 

On the men’s side of the diving board, the Big Green’s four divers took the top four spots in both of their events. For the women, Maggie Pionzio ’20 came in second in both of her events, with Isabella Lichen ’22 following her in third on the 1-meter board.

“I’m pretty excited with my divers; they’re diving really well, and they’re getting better every day,” said head diving coach Chris Hamilton. 

That improvement is a heartening prospect, with the Ivy League championships just a few weeks away. Justin Sodokoff ’21 — who won both of his dives — echoed Hamilton’s optimism, and he emphasized the special importance of the team’s success at last weekend’s meet. Not only was the Tate Ramsden Invitational the team’s senior night, but the meet also honored late Dartmouth swimmer Tate Ramsden ’17, who passed away at the end of 2015.

“We’ve all made strides from where we started, and the Tate Ramsden was a great meet to show that in front of a big home crowd — supporting, of course, Tate Ramsden,” Sodokoff said. “It was a great tribute to him and to the team too.”

The swimmers also came out strong last weekend. The women not only won the first 10 events they competed in, but also took second in all but two of those races. They dominated the 200-yard freestyle and the 200-yard individual medley, taking up the top five slots in both events. Adding to Pionzio’s success on the diving board, senior swimmers Sophie Smith ’20 and Sarah Finlay ’20 rounded out their four years of swimming at home with multiple solid performances, with Smith garnering three golds.

The men found plenty of success of their own, with nine first place finishes out of 16 events, including eight of the first 11. Four of those wins involved Connor LaMastra ’21. 

LaMastra already held four individual records for the Tate Ramsden Invitational alone, and last weekend he added three more pool records to his list. One of those pool records, the 1650-yard freestyle, was set by Columbia University swimmer Tony Corbisiero back in 1981. It was the longest-standing individual record left to be broken at 39 years. LaMastra had his sights set on it for a while, as he set the meet record last year but finished a few seconds short of the pool one. The junior also passed two Harvard University swimmers for pool records in the 200-yard individual medley and 200-yard freestyle.

“I’ve been aiming for that record for two straight years, because I don’t like that Harvard has records on our board,” LaMastra said.

LaMastra said that he only gets to race this event once a season, so he knew he needed to be at the top of his game when the opportunity came around this year. The record-breaking swimmer credited his coaches and the crowd for motivating him.

“My coaches were yelling at me for 15 straight minutes,” LaMastra said. “There were a couple moments in the race when I started to drop off, and they picked me back up, and people were running alongside cheering me on.”

The meet was not without its difficulties, however. According to LaMastra, the team went into the meet plagued with injuries and illness. Some athletes had to drop out of events, and some pushed through pain to finish, as the Big Green struggled in its final races. LaMastra specifically mentioned Tim Cushman ’23, who had suffered an ankle injury and could not kick for the whole 200 yards but still had one of the best races of his season, according to LaMastra. 

Christina Cianciolo ’23 — who took first in the 500-yard freestyle and broke the pool record in the 1650-yard freestyle — credited the team’s attitude and support of each other with propelling the swimmers through adversity. The families and friends of the seniors also helped bolster the team at its final home meet this season.

LaMastra said that going forward, the teams are beginning to taper and recover in preparation for the Ivy League championship in a few weeks, focusing in on technique and getting healthy.

In terms of outlook for the Ivy championship, both LaMastra and Cianciolo were optimistic and are already impressed with the growth on the team so far this season. LaMastra stressed that the men’s relays — in particular the 800 — have seen improvement as the year has progressed, and Cianciolo called attention to her fellow freshmen, who have stepped up and contributed to the team’s success.

The teams have their eyes set on the championship, but first, they will travel to New York to face Columbia University this coming weekend.