The previous week’s outing of the Drexel University men’s and women’s swimming and diving teams could be summed up as nothing less than pure domination. The Dragons left serious point gaps between rival Seton Hall University on the way to victories for both men and women at the Daskalakis Athletic Center. The men’s wins were highlighted by broken pool records in the 400 medley relay and the 100-yard breaststroke. Drexel’s success against Seton Hall molded confidence that would show itself in their most recent efforts at the Thomas Murphy Invitational Nov. 3. Drexel’s teams traveled to Baltimore to begin a two-day competition against John Hopkins University, West Chester University and Loyola University Maryland, the lattermost of which hosted the invitational.
Drexel had its ups and downs at the invitational around this time last year, where the men took home a first place victory, while the women had to settle for third. This weekend, the Dragons went into Baltimore with a far stronger mentality, knowing they had the roster depth to outperform their competition on all fronts. Perhaps the most consistent assets of both of Drexel’s teams have been the medley relays that kick off the meets. The women’s squad secured a top three finish in the 400-yard medley relay, as junior Alexa Kutch, sophomore Gabrielle Rudy and seniors April Forsthoffer and Charlotte Myers banded together to take third in the event with a time of 3:51.78.
The women ended the first day of the contest with a far lower standing than the one they were hoping for. Despite a few strong individual showings, such as Rudy’s third-place finish in the 200-yard individual medley in 2:09.10, and freshman Mary Kate Caputo’s breathtaking capture of the second place standing in the one meter dive with a score of 255.95, the lady Dragons placed fourth overall by the day’s end. The men’s side managed to earn themselves a higher position in the overall rankings after Friday’s events were finished. Instrumental to the second place standing was junior Jason Arthur, who paired with fellow junior Stathis Malamas, senior Ralph Cannarozzi and freshman Paris Raptis in the 400 medley relay in 3:22.44. The group couldn’t keep up with Johns Hopkins, who would provide more trouble for Drexel in the relays further down the line.
Arthur, apparently not satisfied with his performance in the relays, would fire back against his competitors in the 200-yard IM, where he would swim a 1:52.59 time to secure first place. Arthur’s fellow upperclassman, senior Patrick Cobb, would also see a first place finish, taking the 500-yard freestyle for the Dragons with 4:39.47 as his time. Cobb made his fair share of contributions as the day closed, joining fellow senior Luke Hanner, freshman Kevin Spear and Malamas to take third in the 800-yard medley relay, in 7:00.22. These top finishes ensured that Drexel was still in prime position to take the whole competition. While the women couldn’t say the same, they were still determined to end the second day on a high note.
The goals of Drexel’s women’s team soon became a reality, as they started off their second day with three first place finishes. Forsthoffer, Rudy and Kutch each pulled through to earn come-from-behind wins in races they weren’t labeled as contenders. Forsthoffer took the 400-yard IM in 4:26.61, Rudy the 100-yard breaststroke in 1:04.21 and Kutch the 100-yard backstroke in 55.96. Junior Alicia Diaz would aid her team in their comeback, taking second in the 100-yard backstroke in 57.72, before joining her relaymates Rudy, Kutch and junior Hollie Hopf to 1:37.43 and second place in the 200-yard freestyle relay. Diaz would switch out of the relays with sophomore Natalie Gundling, who assisted the 200-yard medley relay to another second place finish. Diaz would then switch back in for Hopf to help her teammates take second in the 400-yard relay in 3:29.16.
Before the women closed out the competition, spare points were picked up by Kutch, Myers and Caputo. Kutch and Myers both took third in the 200-yard events, the backstroke and butterfly, respectively. Caputo managed another second-place finish this time scoring 221.10 points in the 3-meter dive. These last few points were added to make up Drexel’s final score: 799.5. The Dragons missed out on the top spot. The result was a testament to the women’s tenacity and refusal to back down against seemingly unchangeable circumstances.
Simultaneously, the men knew that though they had a better chance to take home a victory, they wouldn’t have an easy time of it. Thankfully, if the Dragons felt any nerves in the locker room, they didn’t show it in the pool. Drexel had four swimmers take four second-place finishes each in the day’s opening events. The runner ups included Raptis in the 100-yard butterfly, Cannarozzi in the 100-yard breaststroke, Arthur in the 100-yard backstroke and Cobb in the 1650-yard freestyle. The solid showing continued as sophomore Zachary Valenzuela and Raptis each took second in 200-yard events. Valenzuela fought his way to silver in the breaststroke, while Raptis had to fight hard for his finish, clocking in at 1:51.13 in the butterfly. Senior Joseph Brown earned a place on the podium, coming in third in the 200-yard breaststroke at the 2:09.68 mark.
As the relays continued, Drexel would often find themselves being pressured by Johns Hopkins. Arthur, Spear, Cobb and Malamas would fall to the Greyhounds in the 400-yard freestyle relay, with only the runner-up spot serving as comfort. As the invitational drew to a close, the Dragons knew they’d have to clinch the top marks in certain events if their hopes of winning the day were to stay alive. These top finishes came in the form of Malamas’s win in the 100-yard free, and Arthur’s wins in the 200-yard backstroke and 200-yard medley relay, the latter of which saw him breeze through the field along Cannarozzi, Raptis and freshman John Scully. The last minute wins saw Drexel’s point tally rise to 926, and their standing to first among their competitors.
Both the men’s and women’s teams were recognized as Arthur and Forsthoffer were named as the Drexel University School of Education Athletes of the Week. This was Forsthoffer’s first recognition this season, while Arthur had already seen the honor for his key role in the season opener against La Salle University. Forsthoffer swam the two fastest times in the Colonial Athletic Association in the 400 IM and 200 butterfly, while Arthur helped the men to their second consecutive first-place finish at the Thomas Murphy Invitational. Drexel will return in a week for a three-day invitational hosted by George Mason University, where the resolve of the Dragons will surely be tested once more Nov. 15-17.