PHILADELPHIA - The Penn men's swimming team will have a busy weekend, despite not having to venture very far from home. A Friday night meeting with West Chester and a Saturday afternoon clash at La Salle (video)will provide the Quakers with their final two non-conference dual meets of the season as the team looks to get back on the right track after three straight tough losses within the Ivy League. Friday night's meet at West Chester will begin at 5 p.m., with Saturday's meet necessitating a quick turnaround from the Red and Blue, getting started at 12 p.m. from La Salle's Kirk Pool.
Penn will hope for something close to a repeat of last season, when the Quakers downed both West Chester and La Salle by nearly identical scores. In meets held a week apart, Penn defeated the Golden Rams, 175-120, and held off the Explorers, 175-125. A new face, freshman Chris Swanson, is one of the leaders of this year's team. Excelling in the distance freestyle events, Swanson has achieved the fastest times in the Ivy League in both the 500 Freestyle (4:27.47) and 1650 Free (15:21.21), while holding the second-best time in the 1000 Free (9:20.80). Rhoads Worster is again among the Ivy elite in the backstroke and butterfly events, while another freshman - Kyle Yu - is picking up the mantle of the graduated Brendan McHugh and leading the Penn charge in the 100 and 200 breaststrokes. So far this season, Yu has registered the sixth-best 100 Breaststroke time (56.06) and the fourth-best time in the 200 Breast (2:02.22) in the league.
Friday night's opponent, West Chester, has compiled a 6-2 record in dual meets, including a win over a Division I team in Lehigh. The Golden Rams also put together a first place finish at the Frank Elm Invitational, a multi-team event that featured Drexel, Saint Peter's and Villanova. A traditional power within the PSAC (Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference), West Chester finished 18th at last year's Division II NCAA Swimming & Diving Championships. This year, the team has produced 18 different swims that rank among the top three in its conference.
La Salle has struggled at times in dual meets this season, but were victorious its last time out, downing Loyola (MD), 181-110. The Explorers have a nice mix of senior leadership and young talent, as evidenced by their depth in the breaststroke events. Senior Blase Szyszko and freshman Johan Roth have produced the top two times in the Atlantic-10 in the 100 Breaststroke (56.86 and 57.33, respectively), and Roth has the best time in the league in the 200 Breaststroke (2:02.26) with Szyszko sitting fourth (2:06.63). Senior Daniel Fitzgerald has the third-best 100 Backstroke time in the A-10 (50.47), while Brian Batson has the seventh-best times in the A-10 in the 50 and 100 Freestyle events. The Explorers will be looking to end the year on a high note as this is their last competition before the Atlantic 10 Championships.
Following this weekend Penn will return to Ivy League competition, taking on Harvard on Feb. 9, beginning at 12 p.m. from the home of the Crimson, Blodgett Pool.