By Glenn Billman, news staff

Northeastern University (NU) women’s swimming and diving placed third out of 10 teams at the Frank Elm Invitational meet Nov. 18-20. Hosted by Rutgers University, the three-day meet was a major checkpoint for the Huskies as they move toward their goal of finishing in the top three during NCAA championships.

NU ended the meet with 1,194.50 points, only 38.5 away from Columbia University’s second-place score of 1,233. The U.S. Naval Academy placed first with 1,804.50 points.

Overall, the Huskies notched 24 season bests and 27 top-10 finishes. Freshman swimmer Megan Clark led the team, breaking three school records and finishing first place twice. Clark beat the previous record in the 50-yard freestyle with a time of 23.06 seconds on Nov. 18. She then beat the 100-yard freestyle record in the preliminary round on Nov. 20 before besting her own time in the final round. The NU record now stands at 50.29 seconds.

“Based off what [Clark has] done so far — she’s made a huge jump in the first three months of her college career — so if she can continue this, she’s already put herself in a position to be one of the top five or six sprinters in the conference,” head coach Roy Coates said. “We hope she continues her growth and gets to be the best sprinter in the conference and certainly tries to qualify for NCAAs.”

Clark began her collegiate career with personal bests approximately .6 and 1.6 seconds slower than her new records in the 50- and 100-yard freestyle, respectively. She attributes her improvement to the camaraderie among teammates and NU’s emphasis on swimming fast as opposed to far in practice, a change from her previous coaching.

“Everyone’s always on their feet when someone’s in the water, which I wasn’t used to because my club team was more independent swimming, and my high school team was more sad swimming and begrudgingly getting in the water and being forced to swim,” Clark said. “Here it’s everyone wants to cheer for each other, and it’s not forced.”

Coates has gradually been shifting practices away from focusing on yardage and toward prioritizing speed over the past several years, encouraged by positive responses like Clark’s. According to Coates, performances across the board have improved under the new regimen, and many other colleges are making the switch.

“To allow the athletes to swim faster, you need to provide more rest. So the rest will take away from the quantity of yards we do,” Coates said. “We try to put them in a position to not only swim fast but race each other. So really what the change is we want to mimic what meets are, and meets are about high-quality performance.”

On the boards, all five divers placed in the top 10 spots for the one-meter and three-meter dives. Junior Jacquelyn Gover placed first overall with 276.15 points in the one-meter, while junior Alyssa Seales took home second with 274.20 points. Both Gover and Seales qualified for NCAA Zone A championships.

Gover also achieved a season best in the three-meter with a score of 268.15 in the preliminary round. She took home 266.30 points in the final round, and her performance over the course of the meet led her to be named Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) co-diver of the week on Nov. 22.

Team captain and senior swimmer Delaney Lanker placed fifth in the 200-yard butterfly. Overall, she said she was proud of the team’s performance and their support for one another. According to Lanker, this year’s team is the best in her four years.

“I think it’s really good, because the attitude hasn’t always been as positive as it’s been this year, and a happy swimmer is a fast swimmer,” Lanker said. “When I started as a freshman, the team was in a very different place than it is now. […] It’s been a gradual process the past four years, but I definitely think we’re at a really good spot right now. I’m optimistic about the rest of the season.”

The Huskies’ next competition will be in Key Largo, Florida at the Orange Bowl Swim Classic on Jan. 3.  

Photo courtesy Jim Pierce, Northeastern Athletics