Can’t say they didn’t expect it.
“We’ve been training really hard,” said first-year swimmer Tara Vovk. “We’ve been pushing each other, and the energy of the team is amazing, so I think all the wins were bound to happen.”
And Northwestern did more than just win: the Wildcats broke multiple school and personal records en route to reign over six other schools in the TYR Invitational. The event was hosted from November 16-18 at the Norris Aquatics Center, and for the third time in a row was won by the ’Cats.
Both the men’s and women’s teams heavily outscored their competition, made up of the University of Illinois-Chicago, Michigan State, William and Mary, Saint Louis, Truman State, and Illinois State (women’s only). The women’s team finished in first-place in all but one of the 25 events, while the men’s team won 15. On more than several occasions the Wildcats placed multiple swimmers above the next-best opponent in an event.
Within an array of impressive finishes, coming a week after the women’s and men’s teams placed 2nd and 3rd in the Princeton Invitational, were five new school records. Star sophomore Calypso Sheridan, broke the women’s 200-meter backstroke record, beat the 200-meter individual medley mark and tied the 400-meter IM time.
She also opened up the backstroke portions of the record-setting women’s 200- and 400-meter medley relays. Sophomore Sophie Angus, first-year Miriam Guevara, and junior Malorie Han swam in the breaststroke, butterfly, and freestyle legs, respectively.
The men’s team did not set new Northwestern records, but achieved two NCAA B-Cuts that could get them spots in the Championships in March: sophomore D.J. Hwang in the 1650 free, and freshman Ryan Gridley in the 200 back. On the women’s side, four B-Cuts were made: Sheridan in the 200 IM and 200 back, and first-year Tara Vovk in the 100 and 200 breast.
“I think it’s pretty amazing how many swimmers managed to swim best times at this point in the season,” said Vovk. “And I think we can be much, much faster at the conference meet.”
Much of Northwestern’s success can be found in its young talent. First-years and sophomores made up a large portion of the Wildcats’ wins during the weekend. For Gridley, the success of his new class isn’t a surprise.
“I kinda knew it all along,” he said. “With the guidance of the upperclassmen and the new coaches, new facilities, we’ve been able to utilize a lot of amazing resources. I think that is a huge explanation for our performances, as well as great camaraderie with the team, great guidance from the upperclassmen, and great friendships all around.”
The unity of the team, said Sheridan, strengthened in the off-season by utilizing a shared head coach and schedule, is another factor that has led Northwestern’s edge.
“I don’t think we would’ve had such a successful time combining the teams if we hadn’t had this new coaching staff,” she said. “They’re really good and they know how to work with both the guys and the girls, and we’ve kind of fit together really nicely.”
Training awaits the swimming and diving teams thanks to a long break in action. Their next meet will be the Iowa/Wisconsin tri-dual at Iowa City on January 19.