Following an accolade filled 2017-18 season that saw Drexel University’s men’s and women’s swimming teams take second and fifth, respectively, at the Colonial Athletic Association Swimming and Diving Championships, the Dragons traveled to Philadelphia based rival La Salle University Oct. 20 to begin their season. The teams were eager to build on the success they encountered during the previous year, but ultimately split wins and losses at the meet.
Drexel previously met La Salle in their last season opener, a tri-meet that also included competition from Villanova University. The Dragons’ home advantage at the Daskalakis Athletic Center pool helped the men’s side beat both of the opposing teams following a point deficit, with the final score determined by the last two races of the day.
Early on in the day, the women’s 200-yard relay teams secured key results that would push them past the Explorers by the day’s end. Juniors Alexa Kutch, Hollie Hopf and Kaitlin Perri along with freshman Megan Sicinski formed the winning medley team, clocking in at 1:47.05. Not far behind them was Drexel’s second squad, comprised of sophomore Gabrielle Rudy, junior Alicia Diaz and seniors Charlotte Myers and April Forsthoffer, which finished with a 1:48.25 time, along with a second place final standing.
Niki Fistrovic managed to keep the momentum going for her side, as she worked tirelessly on the long distance front. The senior put in a shift at the 1000-yard freestyle, finishing in 10:51.55. Fistrovic was the runner up in her event, just barely getting edged out for the top position. The 200-yard freestyle featuring freshman Paige Powell would prove to be one of the day’s most exciting, though the thrills would come from a different source. Natalie Gundling, Powell’s sophomore teammate, displayed a tremendous amount of grit to catch her La Salle competitor at the wall. Powell put up a time of 1:56.08, besting Gundling by half a second.
Kutch would end up pulling double duty in the sprint events, switching over to the 100-yard backstroke, which she took comfortably with a time of 57.04. History would repeat itself as Kutch and Diaz pushed each other all the way down to the wire, just as they did in the 200-yard relays. Once again Hutch and Diaz would place first and second, respectively, with the latter just barely missing out on the top spot. Diaz would later clinch third place in the 50-yard freestyle in 25.21. Kutch and Diaz would face off for a third and final time in the 200-yard backstroke to similar results as the two took first and second, respectively.
Success in the shorter sprint events seemingly wouldn’t end for the Dragons, as the women would continue to dominate them until the meet’s end. Rudy and Sicinski would come together to score some points for the Dragons in 100-yard breaststroke. While Sicinski came in third at 1:06.49, Rudy took first in a close fight against Carrie Horran, a La Salle junior. The two Dragons also showed up alongside each other in the 200-yard breaststroke, with Sicinski breezing through her competition in 2:22.16. Rudy completed the race in 2:25.01 to take second overall.
The swimmers were afforded a period of rest midway through the competition as the divers took center stage. Freshmen Katie Caputo and Hannah Jordan impressed for Drexel in the three-meter dive. Both earned high marks on the judges’ scorecards, with Caputo tallying 239.18, and Jordan 213. They both finished within the top three for the one-meter dive as well.
The sprints resumed as Forsthoffer, who had a great individual performance earlier on in her relay, emerged as the victor in the 200-yard butterfly in 2:07.98. She was closely followed by freshman Jordan Washart, whose 2:12.18 garnered her third place. Washart finished with a 5:18.88 time in the 500-yard freestyle, enough for her to pick up her first collegiate win. Another first place was up for grabs in the 100-yard butterfly, which Forsthoffer happily swept up. Myers and Hopf rounded out that event with second and third place, respectively.
Sicinski would finish out her day with yet another first place showing, this time in the 200-yard individual medley, where she was joined by Forsthoffer and Rudy. Sicinski finished in 2:10.94, while Forsthoffer and Rudy fleshed out the top three. The lady Dragons ended the day on a win in the 400-yard freestyle relay. Drexel’s winning team was comprised of Powell, Gundling, Perri and Kutch. Third place was taken by Drexel’s second team, made up of seniors Rebecca Churchill, Deborah Stoddard, Charlotte Myers, and junior Dora Gercsak.
The Drexel’s women’s team pulled out a victory over La Salle, ultimately leaving the pool deck with a score of 192-106. While the men couldn’t muster a win, falling 154-134, the squad saw some fantastic individual performances on the day. Juniors Jason Arthur and Andrew Zhugayevich led the 200-yard relay to first place with the aid of senior Ralph Cannarozzi and freshman Paris Raptis. Senior Alberto Lagrutta, junior Joe Short, sophomore Zach Valenzuela and freshman John Scully were in the race the whole time, barely losing out on second place to the Explorers.
Senior Patrick Cobb earned the first individual win for the Dragons with relative ease, out-performing La Salle in the 1000-yard freestyle in 9:42.69. The senior class was well represented as Cobb’s fellow senior Luke Hanner put in solid work in the 200-yard freestyle, earning third place in 1:44.68. Arthur and junior Spencer Hill continued the crusade against the Explorers, both forcing their way into the top three in the 100-yard backstroke.
Cannarozzi and Valenzuela were placed in a stacked 100-yard breaststroke race. Neither of the upperclassmen were able to secure first, but performed admirably, with Cannarozzi taking second and Valenzuela third. The duo were paired up again for the 200-yard breaststroke, though they ended up switching places in the event, with Valenzuela finishing second and Cannarozzi third.
The 200-yard butterfly saw Raptis finish second in 1:50.31, while Scully placed third in the 50-yard freestyle with a time of 21.62. Junior Stathis Malamas faced tough competition in the 100-yard freestyle, where he put up a 47.45 time and a placement within the top three performers. Victory was seemingly unable to elude Arthur, who earned another dominant win in the 200-yard backstroke, hitting the wall at 1:52.33. Accompanying Arthur was Hill, who caught some spare points by swimming a 1:56.22 time to close in on third place.
As the day neared its end, the intensity of the Dragons seemed to increase, as could be seen in the 500-yard freestyle. Patrick Cobb and Dane Bell, another senior, swam respective times of 4:41:34 and 4:48.01 to take the top two spots. Paris Raptis, who participated in four events on the day, showed off his in endurance by taking second in the 100-yard butterfly in 50.50, before turning around to take third in the 200-yard IM.
Jason Arthur, who took first in each of his three previous events, took his win streak to four in the 200-yard IM. For his key contributions on the day, Arthur was named Drexel University’s School of Education Athlete of the Week. The final event for the men was the 400-yard freestyle relay, in which the Dragons took second place.
Drexel will return Oct. 27, when they will face off against Seton Hall in the season’s home opener at the DAC. The men will be looking to earn their first win of the year, while the women hope to extend their winning record.