Wesleyan’s men’s swimming and diving team went 4-9 in their dual-meet schedule last season and is looking to rebuild after tumbling to last place in last year’s conference championships for the first time ever. The team returns five swimmers who placed in the 2011 NESCAC championship meet. Along with talented swimmers like junior Brendan Fortin and senior Max Ginsberg who are returning from hiatus, the Cardinals bring in six newcomers who are capable of providing important depth to a squad that should improve.
Men’s swimming and diving will be led by a core group of swimmers in the 2010-2011 season. Juniors Wes Fantini, Nick Huston and Martin Kafin, along with senior Alex Brody, all had top-20 finishes at the 2011 NESCAC championships.
The women’s swimming and diving team will possess more experience and depth than last year’s already solid squad. Wesleyan went 9-4 this past season and features seven returning athletes who picked up team points for the Cardinals at last season conference championships, where the team placed eighth. Junior Cara Colker-Eybel is the star. She had three top eight finishes and paced two school record-setting relays at NESCAC’s. She has support from junior Ally Anderson and sophomore Alyssa Savarino that were part of the record-setting relays and had top-15 performances at the championships. With additional depth entering the program, the Cardinals should be a force to be reckoned with come February.
In maybe the most interesting storyline of the team’s season, Wesleyan will be led by interim Head Coach Frank Keefe, who recently retired as the coach at Yale after being in New Haven for 32 years. He is replacing Mary Bolich, who left to take the head coaching position at Penn State.
“Wesleyan had to make a quick decision after Coach Bolich left and they felt I would be a natural fit,” Keefe said. “I really enjoy the experience and being able to interact with and teach the kids.”
The season got off to a less than ideal start for both teams with their meets against Bates College and Little Three rival Amherst College. The men’s swimming and diving squad lost their first meet to Bates on November 19 138-54, with the opponent recording the top time in all 11 events. Against Amherst at home on Monday the 21st, Wesleyan fell by an ugly 194-42 score. Yet again, the Cardinals did not have a member win a single event. The performances on the women’s team were stronger but only by a little bit. Wesleyan was defeated by Bates 124-69 on the road. Their three event winners were freshmen. Angela Slevin won the 100 back, Rachel Hirsch took the 100 breast and Elizabeth Baumgartner snagged top honors in the 200 IM. In their face-off with the Lord Jeffs the team was crushed 184-46. Like the men’s squad, the women had no swimmer finish better than second. The Wesleyan teams were facing off against solid Bates teams, and Amherst has one of the top swimming programs in NESCAC. But as Frank Keefe realizes, his Wesleyan teams have a lot of work to do before they can be considered contenders in their deep conference.
“Wesleyan just isn’t as good as schools like Amherst or Williams,” Keefe said. “My season is the beginning of November to the end of December when I can shape this team and get them prepared for the bulk of the season. That’s when I can teach them discipline, commitment and communication.”
After taking a few days off for the Thanksgiving holiday, the men’s and women’s swimming and diving teams resume practice and then host the Cardinal Invitational on the weekend of December 3-4.