Coming off their first double victory of the season against Howard University two weeks earlier, the Drexel University men’s and women’s swimming and diving teams traveled Feb. 2 to Bethlehem, Pa., to take on the Lehigh University Mountain Hawks, whose men’s and women’s teams came into the contest with 3-3 and 1-4 records on the season, respectively. Heading into the meet, the Drexel coaches and swimmers knew both matches would be close and would require focus in every race. When the final score was tallied, the Dragons earned their second consecutive double victory. The men displayed great determination as they pulled away from the Mountain Hawks in a 173-123 win, while the women endured their closest match of the season, narrowly defeating Lehigh 148-146. After the meet, head swimming coach Shawn Markey described how his teams knocked off Lehigh to end the dual-meet season.
“The wins are the result of good planning and hard work. The coaches put a lot of planning into the dual meets, especially Lehigh,” Markey said. “We knew the Lehigh meet would come down to the last few events for the women, and we were determined to come out on top. The swimmers were all very focused on winning and finishing the season on a very strong note.”
On the men’s side of the contest, the Dragons maintained an impressive level of confidence throughout the meet that showed in their individual performances. In their first event of the day, the 200-yard medley relay, the Dragons swam 1:34.42 but fell short of the Mountain Hawks, who finished in 1:33.41. Markey was especially impressed with his team’s resilience following the 200 medley relay, saying, “Lehigh put up a very fast time being this late into the season. Usually that is something that hurts morale a little, but our men were determined to fight through for the win.” Lehigh followed the relay with a win in the 1,000-yard freestyle, but Drexel would take over from there, winning 12 of the final 14 events overall.
Drexel sophomore Alex Chialastri notched the team’s first win on the day in the 200-yard freestyle with a time of 1:43.29, which was closely followed by freshman teammate Matt Klotz at 1:44.11. Freshman Joel Berryman then followed suit with a win in the 100-yard backstroke in 51.72 seconds, which broke the Lehigh pool record of 51.74 set by Yale University swimmer George Gleason in 2001. One of Drexel’s most notable wins came in the 500-yard freestyle when Klotz defeated two very fast Lehigh swimmers with a winning time of 4:42.34, which was over 14 seconds faster than his previous dual-meet time in the 500 freestyle. Sophomore Mike Krohn narrowly edged out his competition in the 200-yard butterfly, as he touched the wall in 1:54.63, which was just 0.20 seconds ahead of second place. Krohn then came back to win the 100-yard butterfly in similar fashion, as he stopped the clock at 50.93, which was a mere 0.11 seconds ahead of the second-place swimmer for Lehigh. Markey was very happy with the way the men swam throughout the meet, adding that “the men put up some of the fastest dual-meet times they have had this year. Every win was amazing, and as the meet went on, our confidence drove the rest of the wins.”
The women’s competition was even more thrilling, as it was closely contested from beginning to end. It was an intense meet that featured multiple very close races, which were key in determining the winner. Markey admitted that he “was excited and nervous at the same time. The women’s team had a few tight races where everything needed to come together at the end.” One of those races was the 100-yard butterfly, which Drexel sophomore Brianna Bentz won by a small margin, as she clocked in at 58.87 seconds, less than half a second ahead of second place at 59.24. Senior Steph Uecker secured three valuable points for Drexel in the same race with a third-place finish in 1:01.48. Sophomores Katie Duggan and Gizem Yali finished first and second in the 100-yard backstroke with times of 59.33 and 59.6, respectively. Yali later came back to win the 200-yard backstroke in 2:06.7 to cap off a very strong day. In what was the final dual meet of her fantastic collegiate career, Lauren Faykes was once again instrumental for the Dragons. The star senior began her day with a win in the 200-yard freestyle in 1:55.59. Faykes then returned to the pool for an extremely close race in the 500-yard freestyle, which she narrowly won with a time of 5:03.63, her fastest dual-meet time in the event. Despite trailing by more than a second with just 50 meters remaining in the race, she pulled ahead in the final stretch and stopped the clock just 0.07 seconds ahead of her opponent. After all but two events in the meet were complete, the winning team was still not decided. At that time, Faykes and sophomore Rebecca Heffernan took to the blocks for the 200-yard individual medley and secured the 1-2 finish their team needed, effectively locking up the team victory for the Dragons. Faykes and Heffernan finished the race in 2:11.24 and 2:13.01, respectively. Heffernan’s time was a dual-meet personal record by an impressive three seconds.
While the swimmers put forth great efforts all day long, the divers also did their part in securing the win for both teams. On the women’s side, Drexel swept both the one- and three-meter events with freshman Madison Kramer taking first, sophomore Leah Bank second and freshman Jennifer Mueller third. The men were also successful at both heights, with freshman David Sanchez placing first and senior Stephen Cal finishing second in each. Freshman Reed Vennel placed fourth for the Dragons at one meter.
Drexel will send Ryan DeMott, Stephen Brown and James Premo to the Cavalier Invite Feb. 15-16 in Charlottesville, Va. These three Drexel swimmers will compete against several schools, including the University of Virginia, Duke University and The College of William & Mary. The next meet for the rest of the team is the Colonial Athletic Association Championships, which begin Feb. 27. Markey thinks his team is ready to take on the best the CAA has to offer.
“This team has worked harder than ever this year. The team has rigorously prepared mentally and physically to race fast and drop some big time,” Markey said. “I expect to come home with many best times and school records; it will be an exciting meet.”