At last weekend’s Centennial Conference Championships, the Men’s Swim Team blew away the competition, capturing its first championship in 28 years. The Garnet were absolutely unstoppable, winning a handful of gold medals and scoring 720 total points, good enough to beat runner-up Gettysburg College by an impressive 120 points.
This championship comes as no surprise to the squad, as the Garnet have been a force to be reckoned with all year long. The team dominated opponents from all across the Northeast, going 7-1 overall and 5-1 in conference meets. The sole loss came to Gettysburg, who barely slipped past the Garnet by a score of 127-135. The team averaged an incredible 160.5 points per meet during the regular season, a precursor for their dominance in the Championship.
Winning is always an incredible feeling. Jerry Gu ’19, a native of Ellicott City, MD, remembers how incredible it was to be crowned champions.
“It feels pretty amazing. We worked really hard all season long. I’ve never worked harder than I did this past season to be successful. I think the same goes for everyone else on the team. From early on, we set the goal of becoming ‘#ccchamps17.’ Every step of the way we put in work to reach that goal,” said Gu.
The sweetest part about the Garnet’s 120-point margin of victory might be that the squad interrupted Gettysburg’s six-year championship streak. The Bullets had won the Centennial Conference Championship every year since 2011 and were ranked 16th in all of Division III Men’s Swimming. For perspective the Garnet did not rank in the top 25, but did have two points to their name.
Gu added, “Gettysburg has a bunch of championship trophies, so breaking their six-year streak felt amazing. Prior to this meet, I think they were the favorite to win. We tied them in the 200-yard freestyle relay, which was incredible. That’s one of their better events. We definitely upped our level of play all weekend.”
Gu was excited by how well he and his teammates performed this weekend.
“Everyone put in work when they were in the pool and we broke a ton of records,” he said. “The feeling of winning the championship itself is pretty great. It’s something we will remember for the rest of our lives.”
However, the Garnet did so much more than upset powerhouse Gettysburg. They also won quite a number of individual races while also breaking several records in the pool throughout the course of the weekend.
Day one was pivotal for the squad, as they jumped out to a 39-point lead over Gettysburg by racking up 226 points. A large number of those points came from victories in the 400 medley relay, 200 yard IM, and 200 freestyle relay. Jeffrey Tse ’19 was the X-factor. The sophomore, who, like Gu, is also a native of Ellicott City, MD, set the Swarthmore record in the 200 IM. Tse was a contributor in all three of the Garnet’s Day 1 gold medals. Michael Lutzker ’19 and Andrew Steele ’17 also set Swarthmore records — Steele in the 50 freestyle and Lutzker in the 500 freestyle.
Although it may be difficult to believe, Day 2 was just as impressive. The Garnet accumulated an additional 285 points to bring their total to 511. After Day 2, the team had a comfortable 112-point lead over Gettysburg. Tse and Steele were aided by Chris Smith ’19 and Alejandro Hernandez ’18 in the 200-yard medley relay, breaking yet another school record in the event. Senior Captain Liam Fitzstevens ’17 came up big in the 400 IM, easily winning that event. Steele returned yet again to the podium, this time for his first place performance in the 100 butterfly. The Garnet’s fourth gold of the night came when Stephen Sekula ’17 aided Smith, Lutzker, and Fitzstevens in the 800 freestyle relay.
The Garnet failed to slow down on Day 3. They scored another 209 points, extending their first place margin to 120 points over Gettysburg. Steele, yet again, smashed a school record in the 100 freestyle with a time of 46.02. Lutzker broke the 1650-yard freestyle record with a time of 15:58.44. Tse also returned to the record books breaking the 200 breaststroke school record.
Smith said, “We have great coaching. Having faith in our coach and the way we train was a big advantage for us. Our coach has always told us to ‘#trusttheprocess.’ It all paid off, so clearly the process worked.”
Regarding the seniors, Charles Yang ’19 said, “I’ve never been so proud of my teammates, especially our seniors. Steele and Fitzstevens are legends. Those guys came in as freshmen not on a very good team and completely turned this program around into what we are today.”
This season was without question the most impressive swimming performance in Swarthmore College history. The team has broken 19 school records, most of which came at the championships this past weekend. To put things into perspective, there are only 23 records to break. Members of the current roster currently hold every single program record except for the 200M butterfly.
If the team keeps up this pace, they might go down as one of the best teams in Swarthmore College history.