Women's Swimming: Highly touted rookies shine in early meets
Princeton’s athletic rivalry with Harvard continues to heat up this year, as both the Tigers’ and the Crimson’s women’s swimming classes of 2016 come into the season tied at No. 16 in the collegeswimming.com national rankings. Princeton’s nine newcomers are all ranked in the Top 250 in the nation, and three are in the Top 100.
The Tigers’ highest-ranked recruit, Sada Stewart, said that such honors also come with high expectations.
“I think it definitely is something to think about because Harvard is also ranked No. 16,” Stewart said. “We’re tied with Harvard, so it’s something to definitely keep in the back of our minds, that people are watching us and that we need to make sure that we’re working hard enough in practice to ... swim well in races.”
Stewart, the YMCA national champion in the 200 individual medley, also has strong times in the 100 fly, 100 back and 200 back — good enough that she is a strong contender for the top finishes at the Ivy League Championship.
Joining Stewart in the Top 100 are Morgan Karetnick and Megan Lydzinski. Karetnick’s arrival at Princeton was especially welcomed, as fellow fly specialist and senior captain Carter Stephens swims her last season at Princeton. Karetnick is one of the best in the country when it comes to the 100 fly, having qualified for the 2012 Olympic Trials. She has been ranked in the national Top 10 in fly four times. Lydzinski, a homegrown product of New Jersey, has been the state’s champion three times in sprints — twice in the 100 free and once in the 50 free.
Joining Karetnick in the fly is Nicole Larson, Minnesota’s athlete of the year and five-time state champion. She started off the season putting up fast enough times to win a top-three finish in almost every race she swam. Larson said the improvements her class will make this year are more significant than the No. 16 ranking they earned in the preseason.
“I don’t think coming in being fast is really putting pressure on us; it’s more like making use of that talent,” Larson said. “The way I see it, if we come in and work really hard and do our best and become even better, that’s going to help the team more than like, ‘Oh yeah, well they were really fast.’”
The Tigers are already seeing top finishes, due largely in part to the freshmen. Princeton started out the season 2-0 after its recent Ivy League openers in Philadelphia’s Sheerr Pool against Cornell and Penn. Of the swimmers who earned the Tigers a 1-2 finish in the 200 medley relay, half were freshmen. Stewart, sophomore Cara Slear, Larson and junior Lisa Boyce won in a time of one minute, 44.28 seconds, while freshman Beverly Nguyen, senior Sarah Furgatch, Karetnick and Stephens finished right behind in 1:46.69.
Stewart also picked up three individual wins, including contributing to one of three of Princeton’s Sheerr Pool records, taking hers in the 100 back in a time of 56.21. She also took first in the 200 back as well as the 200 IM. Larson’s performance, winning three individual races as well, earned her collegeswimming.com’s National Women’s Swimmer of the Week.
But Larson sees the classes’ successes as part of a bigger picture the newcomers cannot achieve without the guidance of their older and more experienced teammates.
“[Our] goal since the beginning of the season is to do well at Ivies,” Larson said. “It’s not just freshmen; it’s upperclassmen also and sophomores. Just like the whole team. We do really well in building off of each other.”
Stewart echoed similar sentiments, saying she’s for more than herself and that it’s more exciting racing for the big stakes of the team’s success and that their older teammates are instrumental in helping the freshmen realize that.
“Carter and [senior Kathy Qu] are really great captains,” Stewart said. “They’re really great at keeping the team together ... They’re so team oriented that they’re really good at motivating us. They’re really good at showing us from experience that you have to work hard in practice to get where you want to be in races.”
The Tigers have won 10 of the last 13 Ivy League Championships, but they are looking to the Class of 2016 to help notch another win. DeNunzio Pool is home to three of their biggest meets, and Princeton has already found success at home at the Big Al in September. The Tigers will look forward to continuing that momentum into the Harvard-Yale-Princeton double-dual meet and the Ivy League Championships later in the season.
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