Swimming and diving kicks off season with home wins over DI SLU

| Senior Sports Editor

The Washington University swimming and diving teams beat Division I Saint Louis University Friday at the I.E. Millstone Pool, the No. 6 men dominating with 11 of 12 first place finishes and the No. 11 women edging out the Billikens, 114-110, with an eight-point swing in the final event.

The men captured all but the 200-yard freestyle but still managed an 8-7 advantage in that event, salvaging second, third and fourth places on the backs of freshman Alexander Zuga, junior Michael Perry and freshman Chet Dobson, respectively.

The Red and Green’s best performances came in the 50- and 500-yard freestyles, in which the Bears took the top two spots. Junior Chase Van Patten won the 50 with a time of 21.67 seconds, also claiming the 100 freestyle in 46.73 seconds. Zuga, in his Wash. U. debut, closed out the 500 in 4:47.13.

Senior Kevin Van Cleave also took home a pair of individual first place finishes in the 100 breaststroke and 200 IM. Van Cleave and Van Patten teamed up with junior Jerry Chen and senior Brandon Lum to win the opening event, the 400 medley relay, by a full two seconds.

The Bears capped off the night with another relay victory, as juniors Simon Deshusses, Preston Bailey and David Motch handed off the 200 freestyle to senior Andrew Pek, who closed an exciting race by a margin of 0.04 seconds.

“When I was on the block, I could see how close it was and that I had to dig deep, but stuff like that is why I love swimming,” Pek said. “I felt confident and the support from my team was amazing. To see that I got to the wall ahead was a great feeling, and an awesome way to cap off a good start to the season.”

Pek, whose finish ended the final opener of his Wash. U. career, said the meet established the expectation for the rest of the season.

“It set a tone of everyone rallying together and supporting each other,” Pek said. “The electricity from the team and the stands is something I hope will last throughout the season.”

The women, meanwhile, couldn’t sit comfortably until the final finish line. Through the penultimate event, the Billikens held a 98-94 lead over the Bears.

Senior Lauren Sapp, junior Mollie Seidner and freshman Grace Carey—each of whom also won an individual race—along with sophomore Sabrina Baxamusa clinched first place in the 200 freestyle relay to set the Red and Green up for victory. Still needing seven points to secure the team win, two other Bear groups delivered third and fifth place finishes to make it official.

Three other Wash. U. women won individual events: junior Stephanie Li (1:06.61 in the 100 backstroke), sophomore Elle Pollitt (53.36 in the 100 freestyle) and sophomore Elizabeth Davidson (202.05 points in the one-meter dive).

Pek said that the annual meet vs. SLU—which both teams won concurrently for the first time since 2015—gives the Bears a good idea of their strengths and weaknesses ahead of the bulk of the fall schedule.

“SLU is always a big meet because it’s how we gauge the first part of our training,” Pek said. “[Head coach Brad Shively] does a good job of making adjustments for what we need to work on, but to start off the year with big wins for both the men and women give us a lot of confidence going forward.”

Another tradition around the home-opening meet is the Pink Out Night aimed to raise money for breast cancer research. This year’s GoFundMe page, organized by senior Jason Hsu, raised $1,486, exceeding the $1,000 goal for the third consecutive season.

“We wanted to give a kickstart to raising funds and awareness heading into National Breast Cancer Awareness Month,” Hsu said in an interview with Wash. U. athletics Wednesday. “The fight against breast cancer is an important issue that has affected my own family and so many others around the world.”

“The rest of the team, whether directly or indirectly, also has some kind of connection. So, it’s a great rallying point to get the season going and to make an impact using our status as athletes,” Pek added.

The Bears head to Columbia, Mo. Friday for the Show-Me-Showdown at 2 p.m.

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