No. 11 Men’s and No. 14 Women’s Swimming fall to Division I IUPUI

| Junior Sports Editor

WashU swimmers practicing to face off against Division I competition (Bri Nitsberg | Student Life)

The Washington University No. 11 Men’s and No. 14 Women’s swimming and diving teams were defeated by Division I Indiana University–Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) 127–95 and 143–93, respectively, in the teams’ final dual meet, on Feb. 2, before the University Athletic Association (UAA) Championship.

Despite the IUPUI Jaguars competing in Division I, the Bears prepared for the meet similar to how they prepare for meets against UAA competitors.

“I mean, we go against pretty tough teams in Division III.” said sophomore Matthew Walker. “We’re in the most well-regarded conference for swimming [in Division III], the UAA. A meet like this isn’t something too crazy. I just think we put our best foot forward…you can expect a good race and sometimes [the result is] even better.”

The meet was highlighted by four individual victories: Walker in the 200-yard butterfly, junior Jeffrey Forbes in the 500-yard freestyle, and sophomore Avery Dixon and junior Devin Bunner  in the 200-yard breaststroke.

A medical complication eight days out from the meet forced Walker to take his training a bit easier going into the competition in Indianapolis. However, Walker delivered, swimming a time of 1:50.68 in the 200-yard butterfly, less than half a second off of the NCAA B-Cut of 1:50.26, a crucial step toward making it to the NCAA Championships in March. At the Denison Invitational in December, he achieved a B-Cut in the event, swimming a time of 1:49.40.

Hosted at the IUPUI Natatorium — the site of the upcoming 2024 NCAA Division I Championships and ranked first on SwimSwam’s 10-must-visit sites for a swim meet in the U.S. — the meet proved to be the perfect opportunity for the Bears to compete on the highest level in full suits.

“Something that was different about this dual meet was that people suited up,” said first-year Kiera Johnson, who finished first in the 200-yard backstroke for the Bears, placing fourth en route to a season-best time of 2:08.14. “[At] most dual meets we are wearing practice suits, but [for] this one we suited up and most of us were wearing tech suits. That gave me a different mentality, so I just kind of went after it.” 

Dixon, who set two season bests placing first in the 200-yard breaststroke and third in the 200-yard IM, talked about the unique atmosphere at the IUPUI Natatorium.

“There’s so much history at this pool,” she said. “You look at the wall and [see] lists of Olympians after Olympian. So that was really exciting. The atmosphere right away was just electric.”

The first-year women’s team continued their dominant streak, posting seven podium finishes throughout the competitive meet. Rachel Bello and Lili Sandor placed second in the 200-yard Individual Medley and 500-yard freestyle, respectively. Meanwhile, Anya Rao placed third in the 200-yard freestyle and Peyton Watson nabbed third in both the 50 and 500-yard freestyle.

The first-years have brought not just points to the Bears, but a positive spirit in and out of the pool.

“Some days you just don’t want to swim, you can’t find it in yourself to find that positivity,” said Johnson. “I think that the freshmen class has helped me in a lot of ways to push myself.”

Head Coach Brad Shively also noted the role upperclassmen have played in developing the first-year class. 

“I feel the freshmen women are great representatives of our team and team culture. They bought into the work ethic and competitive spirit at the beginning, and I believe our team has just done a great job of supporting their efforts,” he said.

The Bears’ seniors also showed out in Indiana, with Mark Lipkin finishing second in the 200-yard freestyle, posting a time of 1:40.31, just shy of his season best of 1:40.01 set in early December. Eve Kearns finished second in the 200-yard butterfly with a time of 2:06.77, a season best and just over a second shy of the NCAA B-Cut. Alex McCormick rounded out the night with a third-place finish in the 200-yard backstroke. 

Distance events also proved a strength for the Bears, with sophomores Rin Iimi and Ali Roche placing second and third, respectively, in the 1000-yard freestyle. Junior Ryan Hillery took home second for the men. Alongside Forbes, junior Danny Sibley placed third in the 500-yard freestyle, swimming a time of 4:42.43.

On the diving board, first-year Shanze Karimi added on to her record-breaking season, placing fourth on both the one-meter and three-meter boards, with respective scores of 220.28 and 227.03 points.

Going into the UAA Championships from Feb. 14 through Feb. 17, the Bears are looking to continue their solid performances. “I just want to go into it with a positive mindset and really give it my all because we’ve been working so hard this whole season,” Johnson said.

Walker also noted the strength of the UAA, which includes Emory University, The University of Chicago, and New York University, all of which are ranked in the top ten for both men and women. The conference also includes swimmers such as NYU’s Derek Maas, a former Southeastern Conference Champion who transferred from The University of Alabama to the Violets.

“It’s just a special opportunity to go up and race guys like that,” Walker said.

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