Swimming team breaks records, defeats Union

This past Saturday, Amherst displayed its dominance with a commanding 169-68 victory over visiting Union in their final meet. In the process, the men destroyed four Pratt Pool records and finished in first place in every event but one. The Lord Jeffs now have the opportunity to ride this authoritative victory to the NESCAC championships at Williams College the weekend of Feb. 28.

For the ninth time in as many meets, Amherst’s 200-yard medley relay team began competition with a fast time and a decisive victory. The team of Rick Estacio ’06, Mike Pohorylo ’04, Brian Woo ’06 and co-captain Pat Kennedy ’03 not only defeated Union’s team, but also set a new pool record with a time of 1:36.19.

This season’s relay team is still behind the team record of 1:34.53 set in 1999. However, according to Pohorylo, that record is also “definitely, without a doubt” within the reach of this year’s team.

Part of Pohorylo’s optimism can be attributed to Estacio’s performance. He started off the relay with his fastest time of the year, quite a feat given the team’s current, intense training schedule and the three meets he swam in the past two weeks.

In the next event of the afternoon, Amherst continued to reign supreme with a one-two victory in the 1650-yard freestyle by Adam Lewkowitz ’06 and Steve Shapiro ’04, respectively. The Jeffs refused to let up on the Dutchmen, taking first, second and third places in the 200-yard freestyle. Ed Hagerty ’06, Jeff Sunderland ’03 and Dan Savage ’06 overpowered Union in this event by finishing in that order.

The 50-yard freestyle was one of two events in which Amherst gave up ground to Union. Union’s Ridgely Harrison narrowly edged Kennedy to take first, though Colin Porter ’05 and Mike Cahill ’06 managed to pick up points for Amherst by taking the third and fifth spots in the same race.

The Jeffs came back from the small setback in a quick and typically overwhelming manner. Pohorylo, Chuck Clinton ’05 and Dan Morash ’04 finished first, second, and third in the 200-yard individual medley. Pohorylo’s time of 1:58.20 left both teammates and opponents far behind; Clinton, the second-best finisher, came in over four seconds later.

In the three-meter diving event, senior co-captain Ben Hopkins not only continued his unbeaten streak but set a new pool record with a score of 493.05, to trounce Union’s second and third place divers by over 100 points apiece. The Jeffs kept the pressure on the Dutchmen with a one-two finish by Sunderland and Nick Federico ’05 in the 200-yard butterfly.

Though the Lord Jeffs lost the next event, the 100-yard freestyle, Amherst swimmers still took second, third and fourth places. That loss marked the final defeat of the day as Jeff swimmers went on to win the final five events of the afternoon.

Hagerty, Estacio and Russell Lang ’03 swept the 200-yard backstroke. Lewkowitz and Shapiro followed with their second one-two performance of the day in the 500-yard freestyle. Hopkins then proceeded to set another pool record in the one-meter diving competition with a superb 451.13-point performance.

Not to be outdone, Pohorylo took home his third first-place finish of the day in the 200-yard breaststroke, with Hagerty finishing close behind.

For the final event of the day, Amherst continued its dominance by setting the fourth pool record of the meet in the 400-yard freestyle relay. Woo, Clinton, Estacio and Kennedy finished with a time of 3:11.10, besting the previous record of 3:12.49, which was set in 2000 by a quartet from Williams.

The Jeffs will spend the next three weeks resting to prepare for the NESCAC and the NCAA championships three weeks later. Through a regimen of tapering and focusing on speed rather than yardage, the men hope to be in peak racing shape when the championship meets comes around.

The only obstacle in Amherst’s way is the team’s size. The cap for NESCACs is 24 swimmers and divers, and most teams carry all 24. Amherst, however, will only bring 21 to the competition.

Despite the size disadvantage, Hopkins believes that the team will “certainly look to do really well [at the championships] and to be in the thick of things.”

Pohorylo echoed his sentiments. “We have better depth than any NESCAC team,” he said. “Even if Williams brings three extra swimmers, those three swimmers may not score at all.”

Win or lose, the NESCAC championship, Amherst will look to make its mark at the NCAA championships in Atlanta. The Jeffs hope to bring a sizable team, though that will depend on qualifying times and scores in the upcoming NESCAC meet. However, given the fast times of this year’s squad, a well-sized Amherst contingent should be in attendance.

“We have a lot of people that are looking really good to try to make it to NCAAs,” said Hopkins. “We should do better this year than in any of the past three.”