First-Years Shine For Tigers As Princeton Sweeps Big Al Invitational

2023 Big Al Invitational

It was a red-letter day (and weekend as a whole) for Princeton on Sunday as they wrapped up the Big Al Invitational at home, sweeping the team titles as the freshman swimmers stepped up with some strong performances.


Princeton first-year Eleanor Sun emerged as a star for the Tigers during her debut midseason invite, setting a new school record in the women’s 200 IM while moving up to #2 in program history in the 400 IM.

Sun put up a time of 1:56.26 in the 200 IM on Friday to crack the school record by more than a second and a half, downing Christie Chong‘s 2020 mark of 1:57.89.

Sun’s performance marked a massive best time, having entered college with a PB of 1:58.84.

In the 400 IM, Sun took nearly four seconds off her lifetime best in 4:06.07, moving to #2 in school history behind Alicia Aemisegger, who went 4:02.47 back in 2010.

On the final night of racing, another freshman, Dakota Tucker, lowered the 10-month-old Princeton Record previously held by Margaux McDonald, clocking 2:09.54 to knock nearly two seconds off McDonald’s mark.

Tucker also moved into #2 in school history in the 200 IM (1:56.79) and #3 in the 400 IM (4:07.22), placing 2nd to Sun in both.

Other top performers for Princeton included Ellie Marquardt and Heidi Smithwick, who won two individual events apiece.

Marquardt claimed the 100 free in a new PB of 49.34, and also led the 200 free in 1:45.56.

Smithwick was the victor in the 100 fly (53.14) and 200 fly (1:56.64), both significant lifetime bests.

Penn senior Anna Kalandadze was another double winner at the meet, including a time of 15:54.93 in the 1650 free that falls just one second shy of her lifetime best and ranks 5th in the NCAA this season.

Kalandadze also won the 500 free in 4:40.49—she set her best times in both distance events en route to Ivy League titles last season in respective times of 4:38.86 and 15:53.88.

In the backstroke events, George Washington saw Barbara Schaal (53.14) and Phoebe Wright (1:55.22) sweep the events for the Revolutionaries, both setting new school records and personal best times.

The other top performer of the meet was Utah’s Holly Waxman, who won the 1-meter (299.60) and 3-meter (336.55) diving events while adding a runner-up finish on platform.

Relay Winners

  • 200 free relay – UNC/Princeton, 1:30.58
  • 400 free relay – Princeton, 3:17.76
  • 800 free relay – Princeton, 7:13.36
  • 200 medley relay – Princeton, 1:39.27
  • 400 medley relay – George Washington, 3:38.80

Other Winners

Final Team Scores

  1. Princeton, 551.5
  2. UNC, 444
  3. Penn State, 436.5
  4. George Washington, 332
  5. Penn, 278.5
  6. Buffalo, 274.5
  7. Denver, 250.5
  8. Cal State Bakersfield, 119.5
  9. Utah, 59
  10. Columbia, 22


The Princeton men earned the team victory over Penn State behind superior depth, as the Tigers had five different swimmers earn individual victories.

However, the top performer of the meet by a wide margin was Nittany Lion junior Victor Baganha, who swept the 50 free (19.26), 100 free (42.75) and 100 fly (45.37).

A Brazilian native, Baganha was an ‘A’ finalist in all three events at the Big Ten Championships last season, and earned a spot in the consolation final in the 100 fly at the 2023 NCAAs, finishing 13th after hitting a PB of 44.75 in the heats. He also set lifetime bests in the NCAA prelims in the 50 free (19.10) and 100 free (42.39).

For Princeton, similar to the women’s side, their elite performers included a pair of freshmen, as Arthur Balva claimed the 200 fly and Noah Sech topped the 400 IM.

Balva set a personal best of 1:44.19 in the prelims of the 200 fly before dropping it down to 1:43.48 en route to the win in the final, with Cal State’s Bakersfield’s Vili Sivec the runner-up in 1:44.01 coming off his Croatian Record in the LCM 200 fly on Friday.

Sivec’s time in the final was a new CSU Bakersfield record, and he went on to add three more during the meet in the 50 free (19.86), 100 free (43.11) and 100 fly (46.62).

Princeton junior Tyler Hong set a PB of 1:43.94 in the 200 fly prelims, but dropped to 4th in the final after clocking 1:44.97. The ‘A’ final featured five Princeton swimmers, including sophomore Connor McKenna (1:44.23) taking 3rd.

Hong was the top point scorer overall for the Tiger men, setting a best time en route to winning the 200 IM (1:44.63) while also placing 4th in the 100 back. Leading off the team’s 400 medley relay, he set a PB of 46.67 in the 100 back.

For Sech, he dropped three seconds from his best time in the prelims of the 400 IM (3:48.59) before dropping a 3:47.02 in the final, using a massive freestyle leg to earn the win over George Washington’s Connor Rodgers (3:48.94).

Also winning for the Princeton men was Mitchell Schott in the 200 free (1:33.97) and John Ehling in the 500 free (4:18.39). Both swimmers were just shy of their lifetime bests set last season at the Ivy League Championships: 1:33.93 for Schott, 4:18.24 for Ehling.

Penn State had a second multi-event winner in Mariano Lazzerini, as the Chilean sophomore topped the 100 breast (52.56) and 200 breast (1:54.84), just shy of his best times (52.49/1:54.38).

Also winning for Penn State were sophomores Cooper Morley in the 100 back (46.58) and Eduardo Cisternas in the 1650 free (15:02.89), with Cisternas setting a new PB.

The lone individual winner that didn’t come out of Princeton or Penn State in the pool was Denver junior Dylan Wright, as the South African native put up a time of 1:41.80 for a new best time.

On the boards, Utah’s Elias Petersen topped the 1-meter (337.30) and 3-meter (383.30) events, while Princeton had another win on platform, where Taso Callanan (325.85) was victorious.

Relay Winners

  • 200 free relay – Penn State, 1:18.00
  • 400 free relay – Penn State, 2:53.30
  • 800 free relay – Princeton, 6:25.30
  • 200 medley relay – Penn State, 1:25.54
  • 400 medley relay – Penn State, 3:08.67

Final Team Scores

  1. Princeton, 649.5
  2. Penn State, 590
  3. Penn, 335
  4. Denver, 320
  5. Columbia, 262.5
  6. George Washington, 258.5
  7. UNC, 210.5
  8. Cal State Bakersfield, 100
  9. Utah, 46
  10. U.S. Military Academy, 6

Leave a Reply

Notify of

oldest most voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Save the Smith Center
2 months ago

Another great performance from GW … especially the huge 400 medley relay upset for the women and individual event wins, too. It is such a shame that the administration is still planning to demolish their facility, especially with the swim team being the best on campus!

Bing chilling
3 months ago

UNC men are awful

Reply to  Bing chilling
3 months ago

Best swimmers for both men and women were at US Open…

Unc man
Reply to  Bing chilling
2 months ago


3 months ago

Y’all sleeping on the Quakers they coming up frrrr😜

Reply to  swimbrah
3 months ago

Yes maybe they’ll crack into the top five of the Ivy League this year!!!

About James Sutherland

James Sutherland

James swam five years at Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ontario, specializing in the 200 free, back and IM. He finished up his collegiate swimming career in 2018, graduating with a bachelor's degree in economics. In 2019 he completed his graduate degree in sports journalism. Prior to going to Laurentian, James swam …

Read More »