MEDFORD - Following a season in which they won their first conference championship and had their best finish at the NCAA Championships since 1982, the Tufts University men's swimming & diving team will face a new opponent this year – themselves.
Head coach Adam Hoyt's Jumbos ended Williams College's 15-year run as conference champions last winter, scoring 1,671 points overall to comfortably defeat the second-place Ephs (1,590). Tufts was then seventh at NCAA's with 11 individuals earning All-American honors.
Despite this success, Coach Hoyt expects the Jumbos to attack the new season with the same focus and hard work that led to last year's breakthrough.
"We don't want to get complacent with our process following such a great season last year," Hoyt said. "We're looking to stay sharp and know that we need to work for anything we're going to achieve this year."
|Roger Gu set two NESCAC records last season|
The Jumbos will be led by senior tri-captains Kingsley Bowen, Brandon Jinn and Chris Simotas. Bowen is one of seven returning All-Americans, joined by senior Noah Cagley, juniors Roger Gu, Costantino Camerano and Matthew Manfre, and sophomores John LaLime and Tyler Tatro.
Bowen and Gu were a big 1-2 punch for Tufts last season. Bowen's NCAA performance was highlighted by a pair of third-place finishes in the 100 (48.54) and 200 (1:46.12) backstrokes. He also swept the conference championships in the backstrokes, winning the 50, 100 and 200. Gu broke two conference records at the championship meet last season, winning the 50 freestyle in 19.95 and swimming a 43.44 in the 100 freestyle preliminaries. He was then the national runner-up in the 100 free and was fourth in the 50 free at NCAA's, as well as part of the NCAA 400 freestyle relay (2:59.62) that set a NESCAC record.
Manfre was the breaststroker in a pair of Jumbo All-American relays, the 200 and 400 medleys in which he was joined by Bowen and Gu. Camerano earned his All-American award with the 200 freestyle relay, from which Gu also returns. Cagley and Tatro were a part of Tufts' 800 freestyle relay that was All-American last year. LaLime was an honorable mention All-American in the 1,650 freestyle, as well as the conference runner-up in the 1,000 free.
The Jumbos won two relays at the conference championship. Bowen, Manfre and Gu return from champion 400 medley relay (3:17.86). Bowen and Gu were on the 400 freestyle relay (3:00.79) champions.
The Jumbos rewrote the program's record book last year with 14 new times. Bowen, Camerano, Gu, LaLime, Manfre and Tatro all put their names in print by contributing fastest marks in 2017-18.
Besides all these All-Americans, conference champions and school record-holders, the Jumbos aren't top-heavy and have several other key performers.
"We're pretty strong top to bottom," said Hoyt, NESCAC's Coach of the Year for the second time last season. "We've got a balanced team from an event standpoint with many guys who can score well. Our depth and our balance is definitely our strength."
Including the tri-captain Jinn in the distance freestyles, junior Alexander Burnam (breast), junior Thomas Gillespie (distance free), junior Timothy Gronet (freestyle sprints) and senior Brian Honicky (IM) are upperclassmen who will look to be productive point-scorers.
Among the younger Jumbos expected to continue blossoming are sophomore JJ Batt (free, fly, IM), sophomore Connor Doyle (back, IM), sophomore John Koster (free, fly, IM), sophomore Nathan Mitchell (back), sophomore Christian Schoen (fly), sophomore Dawson Stout (free, fly, IM) and sophomore Lomax Turner (fly). A dozen freshman also join the team.
The Jumbos certainly have the athletes to continue their success, but their intangibles in and out of the pool will be equally important.
"We're looking for consistency in performance, both individual and relay performance," Hoyt said. "I think seeing a consistently high level of focus headed into our meets will help us prepare for what's to come in February and March."
Tufts' season opens on Sunday at home against Middlebury College.