Northwestern men’s and women’s swim and dive teams kicked both their seasons off with victories at Friday night’s combined meet. The men’s team defeated Eastern Michigan University 160.50-128.50, avenging the disappointing loss the ‘Cats suffered to the Eagles in last year’s season opener. The women’s team beat the University of Illinois 166-133 and stomped EMU 199-100.
Throughout the summer, it was said by the coaching staff that freshman talent will be key for the success of the women’s team this year. They responded accordingly. A freshman from Northwestern’s women’s team placed in the top five of every event except the 200-yard breaststroke. Women’s head coach Jimmy Tierney was impressed with the results.
“The biggest thing was the emergence of freshman class,” Tierney said. “They came with a lot of energy, and I think that they really stepped up, which you never know how freshman are going to do, especially in their first competition.”
Standout performances came from freshman Lauren Abruzzo, who finished first in both the 1000-yard and 500-yard freestyle, clocking in at 10:05.65 and 4:56.32 seconds, respectively. Freshman Lacey Locke, a highly-touted recruit, also had an impressive meet. She placed second in the 100-yard backstroke with a time of 55.48 seconds and later won both the 200-yard backstroke in 2:01.92 and the 200-yard individual medley in 2:06.10.
While the men’s team has plenty of new talent as well, it was swims from senior Chase Stephens and sophomore Jordan Wilimovsky, the only NU men on this team who have swum at the NCAA championships, that stood out above the rest. Stephens placed first in the 50-yard and 100-yard freestyle and second in the 200-yard free. Wilimovsky dominated the 1000- and 500-yard freestyle races, beating his opponents by eight seconds in his 4:31.32 500 and touching out the second-place swimmer by an incredible 25 seconds in his career-best 9:12.51 1000.
Impressive swims aside, men’s head coach Jarod Schroeder believes it was a new style of upperclassmen leadership, embracing the team over the individual, that helped the Wildcats avenge their loss to the Eagles last night.
“It’s night and day between this year and last year, and that comes from our upperclassmen, the senior guys,” said Schroeder. “They’re the ones really striving and taking a group of nine new guys and getting them to buy into [the new system].”
Not to be outdone by their swimming counterparts, the men’s diving squad of senior Nick Pinkerton and freshmen Andrew Cramer and Reed Dillon placed second, first and third respectively in the three-meter diving event. Junior transfer John Andrede would have placed sixth but was marked as an exhibition for the event.
The women’s diving team of seniors Cosima Lenz and Mary Kate Campbell and sophomore Caroline Grant placed fourth, eighth and sixth, respectively.