The women’s swimming and diving team came off of a strong first day performance to finish fifth at NESCAC Championships last weekend at Middlebury College. The meet was punctuated with outstanding performances from the Polar Bears, as both individuals and relay teams set new records and made the NCAA B cut times.
The meet started on a high note, with the 800-meter freestyle relay team, composed of Cassie Maroney ’23, Nadia Eguchi ’21, Erin Moody ’22 and Kate Fosburgh ’22, swimming a record time of 7:36.68 to earn fifth place overall. This swim was quickly followed by Marshall Lowery ’20 and Mary Laurita ’21 followed suit, beating records in their respective events.
Lowery set a new record in the 50-meter backstroke with a time of 26.30 and later broke that record in the finals, winning the event with a time of 25.68.
“The 50 back is not a very commonly done event, and I’m not really a sprinter, so it was a big surprise for me,” said Lowery. “But I do think it showed that I had a lot of speed going on, which is really exciting.”
Laurita also had a standout meet, setting a record in the 50-meter butterfly with a time of 24.92 in the prelims, which resulted in a third place finish. She also broke her own school record in the 100-meter butterfly in the prelims with a time of 54.62, taking second in finals. On top of all that, Laurita also recorded a NCAA B cut qualifying time in the 100-meter freestyle.
“I was really happy with our swims,” Laurita said. “I think that going into a meet like that, it’s important to remember how much you have invested in it … We just put a lot of work into racing fast in practice and building those sorts of learning experiences. I think that enabled me to grow from those.”
In addition to the strong swims, Thea Kelsey ’20 earned a fifth place finish in the 3-meter diving event and placed seventh in the 1-meter diving event. She also earned the title of 4-Year High Point Diver, the second Bowdoin student in a row to win the award.
The swimmers’ and divers’ efforts earned the team 849 points and a fifth place finish, comfortably ahead of Connecticut College, which finished with 698 points, and well behind Bates, who had 1,193 points. In first place for the seventh year in a row were the Williams Ephs with 1,930.5 points.
“We’ve been solidly middle of the NESCAC pack for as long as I’ve been here. For the women, I think it’s pretty set, and we know going in Williams is going to be first, and Tufts is going to be right there behind,” Lowery said. “It’s nice because we don’t think as much about the rankings. … We think more about, what are we doing? How are we improving our times?”
In the broadest sense, the team always seeks to maximize the number of points it can earn, choosing events based on what the team thinks it can score the most in.
“NESCACs really is the team event of the year,” Laurita said. “Last year, our standing wasn’t as good. So this year, I think that we really put a lot of energy into focusing on what we could achieve as a team.”
Throughout the actual meet, however, the team members are more focused on individual performances.
“Everyone’s trying to swim their fastest to earn points for the team, but it’s more individual. It’s less about, ‘oh, if I get sixth, I get blank amount of points,’” said Lowery. “It’s more focused on, ‘I want to [swim] this time.’”
These individual performances are also important in qualifying for the NCAA DIII championships. In order to be invited, one must earn an NCAA A cut or B cut time. Earning an A cut time is incredibly difficult and automatically qualifies one for an event. The B cut time is a slightly lower standard that is used to fill out the rest of the spots. Not all swimmers that earn B cut times, however, are invited, due to a cap for how many individuals may swim an event.
“In the 100 [butter]fly, I am seeded around fourth or fifth. So [for] that one, I should be invited individually, and I think our relays are looking pretty good,” Laurita said. “You never really know how it’s going to pan out because the invited times are there, but it’s more so based on the number of people … It’s like a weird game that has to happen every year.”
The transition from NESCACs to NCAAs can be tough. Swimmers often “taper” to ensure optimal performance at an event. Tapering is typically a two week process that entails decreasing yardage during training but maintaining bursts of intensity. This clears swimmers of exhaustion but also keeps them race ready. Since the NCAA championships are on March 18, the team must quickly build up its regimen so that it can re-taper beforehand.
With a smaller group going to the NCAAs, however, qualifying swimmers have the opportunity to get increased attention from coaches and grow tighter as a team.
“Everyone’s always in tune with what everyone else is doing because, instead of keeping track of 24 girl races, it’s a few girls and a few guys and you can always be there cheering,” Lowery said. “It’s just very, very supportive, and everyone can be there, and everyone can be watching and excited for everybody else.”