While their peers were on break, members of the Northeastern University (NU) swimming and diving team were hard at work. After training for 10 days in Florida and competing in the Orange Bowl Swim Classic Jan. 3, the Huskies traveled to Philadelphia for their third and final Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) meet Saturday.
In Key Largo, Florida, the Huskies notched 36.5 points for fourth place, barely behind Duquesne University and George Mason University (GMU), who tied for third with 37 points each.
Three other teams competed: University of Michigan earned first with 292.5 points, followed by Florida International University in second with 105 points and Middlebury College in sixth with 10 points.
“They performed great,” NU head coach Roy Coates said. “You have to understand, we were training five to six hours a day before that. So their performances weren’t their lifetime best performances, but that wasn’t the purpose. The purpose was to get up and race some of the best competition in the country. It was fun to see them racing those other swimmers, so it accomplished everything we were hoping for.”
NU’s narrow loss to GMU was unprecedented, as the Huskies soundly beat the Patriots 197-155 in a CAA tri-meet in November. However, Coates was not disappointed in the team’s performance.
“We weren’t trying to win the meet,” Coates said. “We weren’t trying to score points. I can’t lie to you, I didn’t know they were keeping score. So if you notice the score, we were a half a point difference between George Mason, ourselves and Duquesne. So no, we made no attempt to win, we weren’t even putting some of our people in their best events.”
Another consideration for the team’s performance are the different pools used to train and compete in. While the Huskies’ home pool is the standard 25 yards, they spent the preceding six days training in a 50-meter pool before competing again in a 25-meter pool. According to Coates, the difference in lengths can make adjustment difficult for the swimmers.
NU competed in the first Orange Bowl Swim Classic 13 years ago. The competition only has events for swimmers so instead of competing, divers continued their conditioning in Key Largo. The team travels every winter break to train somewhere warm and participate in a competition, which keeps the athletes in good spirits and good shape.
The Huskies split their meet in Philadelphia with a 179-121 loss to Drexel but a victory over the University of Delaware (UD) by a score of 200-98. Coates believes Drexel’s win is a sign the Dragons have improved rapidly in the last year and a half, not a reflection of the Huskies slipping in the league.
“I was really proud of our team, how they prepared, how they cheered for each other, how they got up and raced,” Coates said. “We were a little bit off our time, and that probably can be attributed to, one, the training but, two, the travel. […] We trained hard for the meet, they rested. It was important enough for them to beat us.”
Drexel now appears to be NU’s biggest competition for clinching third place at the CAA championships.
“The battle for third is probably between us and Drexel,” Coates said. “Maybe this is a good wake up call, maybe it’s a lot of things. But it’s certain we do have to worry about Drexel.”
However, senior Taylor Ellis is confident NU will beat Drexel when they face off again in February.
“We have beaten them in the past,” Ellis said. “And I think with all the hard training we’ve put in in practice and at meets, that this coming February, with all of that behind us, I think the results will definitely be different and we’ll come out on top.”
Against UD, NU swimmers edged out a victory in every race except for the 200-yard butterfly. Sophomore Carly Schnabel and Ellis led the team against both schools, notching 49 and 31 points, respectively. Schnabel achieved first place overall in the 200 and 500-yard freestyle, while Ellis took home second overall in the 100 and 200-yard breaststroke.
Junior Sara Touchette-McGowan also had a stand out performance, setting the Drexel pool record for the 100-yard butterfly with a time of 56.72 seconds and earned 19 individual points.
The divers started the new year with a splash: Junior Alyssa Seales came in first place for the 1-meter and third for the 3-meter, followed by junior Caroline Gonsalves, who placed third on the 3-meter board and fourth in the 1-meter.
Last year, NU divers racked up more points than any other team, which Gonsalves hopes to do again.
“Diving’s obviously a really mental sport so it was really hard after such a long week of training and traveling,” Gonsalves said. “We did a really good job of supporting each other and getting the dives off the board the best we could.”
NU’s record is now 5-2 overall and 2-2 within the conference. Next, the Huskies will face off with the University of Vermont at home on Saturday.
“I feel really confident,” Ellis said. “I feel that we’re getting ready. I know we still have a lot more meets left and we still have a lot more training to do, but I know the training we’ve put in has shown results before at the mid-season meet, and so with even more training and practice and putting in that hard work, I think we’ll be ready for championships in February.”
Photo courtesy Jim Pierce, Northeastern Athletics