PHILADELPHIA - The Quakers open the 2010-11 campaign when they take to the pool twice this weekend, facing Columbia in New York, Friday at 6 p.m. before traveling back to Philadelphia for a battle with Connecticut on Saturday at 1 p.m.
The Red and Blue are coming off one of the most successful seasons in recent memory. The Quakers finished with a winning record in dual meets, beat Yale for the first time in over 15 years and claimed their highest finish in the Ivy Championships in over 36 years, led by a strong group of six seniors.
This season Penn will use a total team effort if it hopes to improve on last year's performance. Leading the way for the Quakers is perennial All-Ivy performer Brendan McHugh. Just a junior, McHugh has been an All-Ivy performer in each of his first two seasons, and rewritten the record book in both breaststroke and the I.M. He owns the top four two times in school history in the 100-yard breast, 200-yard breast and the 200-yard I.M. McHugh isn't a one man show however, as the team has strong swimmers in every stroke.
The Quakers will rely on a pair of seniors to lead the butterfly contingent, in seniors Mike Tompkins and Alex Kalish. The duo placed 12th and 14th in the 200-yard fly at last year's championships, as well as turning in many strong performances during the year. In backstroke, sophomore Conor Blackwood is the team's top returner after taking 13th in the Ivy Championships last year.
In freestyle, Penn returns two sprinters who swan at the Ivy League Championships. Juniors Brett Gomes and Peter Amos are the team's top two returners after taking 16th and 19th in the 50-yard free at the Ivy Championships. In distance free, junior Cameron Hood and sophomore Stephen Carroll both had top-ten finishes in the 500-yard free, 1,000-yard free and 1,650-yard free at last year's championships.
Diving should also be a strong spot for Penn this year, as the Red and Blue return both of its top divers from a season ago in senior Alex Marple and junior Jeff Cragg. Marple dove in both 1-meter and 3-meter diving events at the championships while Cragg placed fourth in the 1-meter a year after finishing second in the event. Cragg also broke the school's 38 year-old record in the in the 1-meter diving event last year.
Looking at this week's opponents, Penn has lost each of its last three meets in Columbia, despite having won two of three overall. Last year Penn took care of Columbia 161-139, as Cragg and McHugh each won of pair of events. Carroll also took a first place finish, winning the 1,000-yard free in his first collegiate meet.
One day later the Quakers take on a Connecticut team which finished sixth at last year's BIG EAST Championships and has already earned victories over Georgetown, Villanova and Army this season.