Athletes of the Week: Liam Fitzstevens ’17 and Jeffrey Tse ’19

Fitzstevens and Tse played vital roles in helping the Swarthmore Men’s Swimming Team bring home its first Centennial Conference Championship. Fitzstevens, a senior captain from Rochester, NY, won two individual events, the 400 IM (4:03.76) the 200 backstroke (1:49.00). He is now only the fifth person in Conference history to win the 200 backstroke three times in a row. Tse, an honors economics major and statistics minor from Ellicott City, MD, broke a school record and finished first in the 200 IM (1:51.73). He was also a member of three medley teams that won gold. In one of those races, the 400 medley relay, the team of Tse, Fitzstevens, Alejandro Hernandez ’18 and Andrew Steele ’17 recorded both a meet record and a school record (3:22.19). Tse also finished with the 10th best time in the 100 backstroke, qualifying him for the DIII National Championships on March 15-18.
MAX KASSAN: At the moment you realized that your team won the championship, what was going through your mind?
LIAM FITZSTEVENS: I realized that we’d won the championship when Jerry Gu ’19 was giving my teammates an inspirational speech before our 400 freestyle relay. I looked around our huddled circle and the only thing on my mind was how much love I felt for and from each one of those men.
JEFFREY TSE: I was so excited to bring home a championship trophy to Swat especially since we haven’t won in 28 seasons. I realized that we won right before our 400 free relay, when we were up by so many points that Gettysburg couldn’t have caught up regardless of what happened. The eight of us on the relay gathered around, telling each other how much we enjoyed the season and loved each other. It was a really emotional moment and I’m glad we got to bring home the trophy for our seniors, especially Liam and Andrew, who have both been great leaders to me and the team this year.
MK: Which was your favorite race?
LF: My favorite race was the 800 freestyle relay because of how much heart we poured into it. Michael Lutzker ’19 had a particularly stunning race, diving in a body length behind first place, finishing with half a body length of wiggle room, and propelling Chris Smith ’19 into the fastest 200 freestyle split on the team.
JT: We were able to win four of five relays which was huge for our team. I always love swimming for my teammates; my favorite relay was probably the 400 Medley Relay where I swam a best time in the 100 Back. When we won that race and went up by almost 40 points, that’s when I began to truly believe we could win. My other favorite races were watching Andrew Steele dominate in the 100 fly, Michael Lutzker destroy two school records in the mile (1000/1650), and David Ranshous swim in the B Final of the 100 Fly, among many other races.
MK: How does breaking Gettysburg’s six-peat championship streak influence your class’ legacy?
LF: Breaking Gettysburg’s six-peat championship streak is not about my class year’s legacy- it’s about the legacy of this team. It’s about the team culture we’ve cultivated over these past two years. We set a goal last spring, reaffirmed our commitment to it in the fall, held ourselves accountable to excellence all year and made “#CCChamps2017” a reality.
MK: Jeffrey, what does ending Gettysburg’s six-peat championship streak mean to you?
JT: Ending Gettysburg’s streak was the culmination of hard work, dedication, and teamwork throughout the past two years from every single one of my teammates on both the men’s and women’s team. It speaks to how much work Coaches Karin and Thomas have put into our program. This was a true team victory and I know that we will only have to work harder next year if we want to keep that trophy.
MK: Liam, what are your plans after you graduate? Are you going to keep swimming?
LF: Nationals will definitively mark the end of my swimming career. As a neuroscience and pre-med student, I’ll be studying for the MCAT this summer. Next year I will be continuing my neurodegenerative research at the Hannover Medical School in Germany or in a stateside laboratory, with the end goal of becoming a physician scientist.
MK: Jeffrey, what is your mindset heading into Nationals?
JT: One of the lines Liam and I kept repeating to each other throughout Conferences was “One More Meet,” and I feel so honored and lucky to get to go down to Texas and swim one last time. I just want to go and have fun, savor the moment, and race my butt off for Swat.

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