Swimming and Diving honors seniors vs. Union

By Shannon O’Brien ’15

“We were ready,” said captain Ben Fields ’15 of the swim team’s meet against Union College last Saturday afternoon. “We knew that it was going to be a tough meet, but every year we talk about Union Week, and this year we were more ready than ever.”

Besides being against one of Hamilton’s greatest rivals, Saturday’s meet held considerable significance and meaning for the team because it was the senior swimmers’ last home meet. To honor the seniors, the pool grounds were decorated with buff and blue streamers, further hyping swimmers and Continentals fans.

After grueling workouts and extra training over winter break, the team was feeling ready to show off the results of their hard work. “It was senior day, all of us were ready to swim as fast as we could in our last races at home,” said Fields, “and I think the underclassmen felt that energy rub off on them.” Captain Sarah Larson ’15 added that everyone seemed to feel “pretty pumped because it was our last home meet.”

Of course, the big meet against Union fell around the peak of the team’s training, meaning that the swimmers were physically exhausted and not yet in the tapering process. “At this point in the season we are broken down mentally and physically, I think even more so this year than in past years,” said captain McKenna Kelly ’15. “It can be difficult to step up and race, especially in a high pressure race environment, but everyone really rose to the challenge and swam extremely well this past weekend.”

Both the women’s and the men’s teams were touched out in the first event of the meet, the 200-yard medley relay, but this did not discourage the Continentals. Fields explained that the men’s team had expected to lose the first relay—they had strategically planned to save their top swimmers for the last relay of the day. Indeed, in the event that followed—the 1000-yard freestyle—Kelly and Ryan Cassidy ’17 handily came into the wall first, both earning personal best times of 10:58.00 and 10:06.92 respectively. Both the women and men went on to dominate the 200-yard freestyle, as well as the 100-yard backstroke, demonstrating the depth of this year’s team.

Many events, however, were extremely close, with wins coming down to the hundreth’s of seconds. Captain Reid Swartz ’15, who has been the top swimmer on the men’s team all season, especially felt the pressure. “I was nervous for the backstroke events because I was swimming against Andrew Welch ’15, who has probably been my biggest rival over the years,” Swartz explained. Impressively, Swartz won the 100-yard backstroke with a time of 52.38, beating Welch by .11 seconds. Swartz also went on to easily beat Welch in the 200-yard backstroke later in the meet, and he also placed first in the 100-yard butterfly. Because of his stellar swims on Saturday, Swartz was named the NESCAC performer of the week for men’s swimming and diving.

Kelly was also mentioned in this week’s NESCAC sports newsletter for her win in the 1000-yard freestyle as well the 100-yard butterfly, in which she edged out Union swimmer Alexis Wojtowicz ’17 with a personal best time of 1:01.89.

Throughout the meet, the score continued to go back and forth between Hamilton and Union. “The whole meet was close,” explained Larson. “It came down to the last relay. In the end we lost by one race—a fifth place finish that Union nabbed. They were the better team Saturday but we put up a good fight.” Working hard until the very end of the meet, the women’s team lost to Union by two points with a score of 150 to 148.

The final event, the 400-yard freestyle relay, was also pivotal for the men’s team. “We faced a decision at the end of the meet where if we got second and third in the relay we won, and if we won the relay we won the meet,” said Fields. “The smart thing may have been to split our relays and get the points, but we took a chance and it paid off. We wanted to win the relay and the meet, and it was incredible.” The men’s team won the meet with 157 points to Union’s 141, making this the first time that the men have been victorious against Union in the current seniors’ four years at Hamilton.

“I could go on and on about how great this team is, how amazing an experience this has been and how much I’m going to miss it. By far the best decision I ever made at Hamilton was to join the team,” said Fields in reflecting on his swimming career at Hamilton. “There is more camaraderie and mutual respect amongst the men and women I’ve practiced and competed with than almost any other group. It’s an amazing feeling to end your final home meet with a win over Union, but honestly it’s also just an amazing feeling to have been lucky enough to swim for Hamilton for four years.”

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