It was a bittersweet moment.
A resounding cheer of "Princeton seniors!" echoed throughout DeNunzio Pool, and a certain five swimmers couldn't help but revel in the glory. Hands came together from all corners, a tribute to the accomplishments of a fine group of swimmers.
For the men's swimming team (9-0 overall, 9-0 Eastern Intercollegiate Swimming League), Saturday afternoon's meet signified many things. The 165-133 win over Navy completed the Tigers' second consecutive undefeated dual-meet season. It also extended Princeton's dual-meet winning streak to 49 contests. For many people, however, these statistics paled in comparison to another thing the meet symbolized.
For the seniors on the team, this was their last home meet. Ever.
"Every meet has its own special importance and flavor," head coach Rob Orr said. "Today, we're bidding farewell to five outstanding individuals before they go out into the real world."
This meet was nothing less than a fitting dedication, as the scoreboard continually flashed the names of each senior. Aaron Craig. Mark Woon. Jason Eaddy. Davin Quinn. John Kernkraut. The names clicked past, not letting anyone forget who the stars of the day were.
The meet's highlight came at the midpoint, when each name was called out individually in a small but appropriate ceremony. The announcer captured each personality with a short anecdote, followed by the fervent reaction from the crowd.
The performances in the pool were also representative of the individuals. Woon and Kernkraut demonstrated their versatility, competing in a combined eight events. Quinn continued his breaststroke dominance, winning the 100-yard event in 57.63 seconds, while Craig showed why he and Quinn make such a formidable breaststroke duo, prevailing in the 200 breaststroke with a time of 2:07.30. And Eaddy remained strong in the distance freestyle, finishing a close second to freshman Matt Harrigan.
Due to the nature of the meet, a noticeably relaxed tone pervaded the atmosphere.
"I think the team took it really lightly," Eaddy said. "But it was still really big because it was the last (home) meet."
The day was definitely more fun than business and many swimmers found themselves in atypical events. For the next two weeks, the Tigers will return to training for their upcoming big meets, but this day was special.
How much fun can we have. . .
"I just had a lot of fun swimming with fellow swimmers and other team members," Quinn said. "For me, this meet sort of represents everything that happens outside the pool (with this team). H-Y-Ps last week represent the excitement and intensity that is part of being on the Princeton swimming team. But these are the memories I'll cherish more than anything else."
Almost obscured in the background was the performance of the rest of the team, a performance that assures that the Tigers will still be contenders in the future. Freshman Andrew Chadeayne again won the two backstroke events, while Harrigan (1650 free), freshman Jeff Peterson (200 butterfly), sophomores Jamie Holder (50 free) and Tom Esposito (400 individual medley) and junior Matt Vogt (200 free) won one event apiece.
By the time the meet was over, a slightly less jovial sentiment began to set in. This was the time for the memories, when everyone lined up for pictures. That mixed feeling of teetering on the cusp of advancement – when the only way to go forward is to leave things behind – could be sensed. But wide smiles still shone through, masking anything that may have been underneath. Each senior lingered until after the lights started to go out, visiting with friends and family, everyone almost afraid to let go.
"It was a nice closure to the dual-meet season," Eaddy said. "I almost wish I had another four years here."