The women’s NESCAC swimming and diving championship splashes into the Leroy Greason Pool this weekend, and the Polar Bear women look to build upon a strong season and break personal records at home.

“I’m really excited for the team to come together and really bring extra energy and excitement at home,” said captain Erin Houlihan ’17.

The team, which won three of its four NESCAC dual meets this season, is anchored by captains Houlihan and Isabel Schwartz ’17. The team also features Mariah Rawding ’18, Sterling Dixon ’19 and Sophia Walker ’17, who all qualified for NCAA Championships within the past two years. 

Earlier this season, Dixon was named a NESCAC Performer of the Week for her three first-place finishes in the meet against MIT and Worcester Polytechnic Institute. While her season has featured current best times of 25.46 seconds in 50-yard freestyle and 1:53.33 in 200-yard freestyle, Dixon is still looking to improve this weekend.

“[Dixon] had very strong season in a number of races,” said Head Coach Brad Burnham. “For her, she still wants to drop a quite of bit of time.”

Looking at its results over the course of the season, this year’s team is very similar to last year’s, which placed sixth at NESCACs. However, the makeup of the squad has shifted with more middle and long distance and stroke swimmers. 

“We try really hard to treat it as a team, like this is the 2016-17 team,” Burnham said. “Expectations are always there to really see how much you can improve and race every race you can but not compare too much to what we have done in the past.”

Even though the team graduated five swimmers last year, the Polar Bears continue to find success through strong performances by first-year swimmers. 

“We gained many important first years who are integral to the team,” Houlihan said. “A lot of people stepped up and took leadership roles and really have been working hard in practice every day.” 

Two of the team’s top swimmers, Dixon and Walker, have been dealing with injuries throughout the season but hope they will be ready to go this weekend. 

“We have a few nagging injuries, but [our swimmers] have done a fantastic job of working around it,” Burnham said. “We are not going to lower our expectations because of that.” 

Two weeks ago, the team started tapering in preparation for the upcoming championship, meaning they are gradually swimming less and resting more. On Wednesday, the team plans to bring in Dr. Tiff Jones, a sport and psychology consultant hired by the College, in order to boost team chemistry and mentally prepare before the meet.

The three-day, trials and finals meet is taxing physically and mentally, and the team is honing in on getting the most out of this weekend.

“We teach them to figure out what gets them ready to race, give every race 100 percent effort and try to recover as quickly from each one as you can and spend the rest of the time supporting teammates,” Burnham said.