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Swim Teams Close Out Season With Impressive Performances

By David Chatwin

The men’s and women’s swim team recently finished up the season at their respective New England Championships.

The Lady Engineers travelled north to Bowdoin College where they competed against 40 other teams. Despite fielding one of the smallest squads (only 14 women) the MIT swimmers were very competitive and finished in eighth place; the second highest finish by the women ever. Also quite satisfying was the fact that MIT defeated rival Wellesley College by several hundred points.

The relays provided a solid basis for the women’s success, with all five relays placing in the top eight. The 200 yard freestyle relay squad, consisting of Deirdre Dunn ’99, Jen Navarro ’00, Lauren Erb ’01, and Andrea Harsanyi ’02, placed 5th. The 400 free relay was swam by Dunn, Lea Engst ’02, Lauren and Harsanyi. The 200 medley relay team consisted of Liz Krams ’00, Erica Fuchs ’99, Harsanyi and Dunn. Krams, Engst, Harsanyi and Dunn swam the 400 medley relay. And last but not least, the 800 free relay squad was composed of Navarro, Erb, Allison Fielder ’02, and Christina Wilbert ’01.

In addition to the impressive team performance, many of the women had outstanding individual swims. Dunn put the finishing touches on her remarkable swimming career at MIT. She made the National B qualifying cut in the 50 yard free with a time of 24.88. Dunn also became the New England Champion in the 100 IM, with a school record of 1:02.29 and finished fifth in the 50 yard fly. Dunn was joined in the 50 fly by promising freshman Harsanyi, who placed sixth, and by butterfly specialist Navarro, who came in eighth. Navarro made the national B qualifying cut in the 100 yard fly with a time of 1:00.00. Not to be outdone by the butterfliers, Krams also set a new school record in the 50 yard backstroke, swimming a 30.26.

Fielder expressed her excitement about the meet, “The women’s team swam really well at New Englands, and I think that everyone had at least one personal best time here. The distance swimmers had a good taper and we really dropped a lot of time. I am looking forward to swimming the 1650 free again next year.”

The men’s team placed 12th out of 28 teams at the New England Swimming and Diving Championships held at Williams College. Instead of relying on individual superstar performers who had boosted the team in years past, MIT relied more on the increased depth and size of the team.

Coach Mary Ellen McLaughlin said, “Coming in to the championships we knew that many of our swimmers would be close to scoring in the top 24, and in many events we were able to rise above the competition and place very well.”

Oren Bernstein ’02 had the best meet of all MIT swimmers. He led the way with an eighth place finish in the 100 yard fly in a time of 53.75. Oren also qualified for the consolation finals in both the 50 and 200 yard fly.

In one of the most compelling races of the championships, departing senior Kevin Musselwhite ’99 competed in the 1650 yard freestyle. Despite his previous focus on the sprint races, Kevin swam in the longest and most grueling event for his final individual competition. His time of 18:13.42 was a career best.

Other excellent performances included the sophomore sprinting duo of Nick Vantzelfde ’01 and Stefan Bewley ’01. Vantzelfde placed in the 100 IM with a time of 57.96 and Bewley swam through serious shoulder injuries to place in the 50 yard free.

In the first day of the competition, six MIT swimmers missed qualifying for the finals by a few fractions of a second. The second and third days were better, with more of the MIT swimmers getting into the top 24 places. This was partly due to the increased fan support when the women’s swim team arrived in full-force to cheer on their male counterparts.

The men’s team lone diver, Dylan Birtolo ’00 also improved as the days went on. Birtolo had a rough time in the one-meter event, which is usually his strong event. He stepped it up, however for the three-meter. Dylan ripped one of his most crucial dives, the full twister one-and-one-half, and placed better than expected.

“This was a fun team to work with.” said Coach McLaughlin. “We had a lot of team unity, as was demonstrated by all of the bald heads. We’re really going to miss the departing seniors. They provided a lot of leadership for the team. It is clear what gaps the seniors are leaving and what gaps we need to fill for the coming season. I love working with these swimmers and I am looking forward to next year.”