PHILADELPHIA - The University of Pennsylvania women's swimming and diving team will begin its 2016-17 season Friday afternoon, taking on Army West Point and Columbia at 4 p.m. in West Point, N.Y.
Head Coach Mike Schnur was named the 2016 Ivy League Coach of the Year on the women's side after leading the Quakers to a fourth-place finish at the conference championships and breaking seven program records in the process. The Quakers earned 1,025 points against the Ancient Eight, the second-highest total in school history and most since since 2007.
Penn returns eight athletes who currently sit atop the program record book after strong performances in the pool a year ago. Junior Virginia Burns led the way for the Red and Blue as the lone gold-medalist at the Ivy Championships, capturing first place in the 500-yd freestyle for the second consecutive season with a time of 4:43.72.
Haley Wickham and Ellie Grimes both upped their own school marks in the 100-yd breaststroke and 400-yd individual medley respectively at last year's conference meet, while Libby Jardeleza broke her own teammate Rochelle Dong's mark in the 100-yd backstroke. Jardeleza followed that up with another Penn-best time of 1:57.49 in the 200-yd backstroke, while Grimes reset her own record in the 200-yd breaststroke. Freshman Nancy Hu set a new school record in the 200-yd butterfly during the prelims, swimming a time of 1:58.40.
Burns, Madison Visco and Mary Whiting and Ryan Alexander clocked a top time of 7:14.21 in the 800-yd freestyle relay at the Ivy League Championships which also sits as a Penn-best.
The Red and Blue captured eight victories in the regular season last year, the most since 2007, owning wins over Columbia, UMBC, Villanova, Cornell, Dartmouth, Brown, West Chester and La Salle.
The Quakers welcome a hefty class of 14 freshman to the pool this season in Emma Buerger, Grace Ferry, Emma Holmquist, Claire Kercheval-Roig, Lindsay Ladman, Emily Layne, Meredith Newman, Sarah O'Leary, Kaitlin Stearns, Kristen Sun, Mollie Westrick, Serena Xue, Wendy Yang, and Linda Zhang.
Scouting the Black Knights
Army West Point has competed in one official race this year, defeating UMass on the road Oct. 14. The Black Knights took home first place in several events, including the 200-yd medley relay, the 100-yd backstroke, the 200-yd butterfly, 200-yd backstroke and 100-yd freestyle. Last year, Army West Point went 10-1 overall and 5-1 in the Patriot League, finishing second at the conference championship.
Scouting the Lions
Like Penn, Columbia is also opening its season Friday in West Point. Last season, the Lions finished sixth at the Ivy League Championship, earning 670 points. Columbia owned a 2-5 record on the season, but returns six of eight swimmers that finished the dual-meet season with top-12 times in the Ancient Eight.