The Northwestern men’s swimming and diving team hosted the Eastern Michigan Eagles for their season opener in Evanston, Illinois on Friday night, and the Wildcats started their season off with a bang. The team was led by returning NCAA qualifiers Jordan Wilimovsky and Chase Stephens, and also by junior Mark Ferguson who each captured 2 individual event titles apiece.
The Wildcats opened the meet with a convincing win in the 200 yard medley relay when the foursome of senior Dominik Cubelic, junior Uula Auren, Ferguson, and senior Matt Wilcox teamed up to post a winning time of 1:31.81. The Wildcats ‘B’ relay would take second place in a time of 1:34.46, while the relay from Eastern Michigan would take 3rd in 1:34.55
After freshman Andrew Cramer, senior Nick Pinkerton, and freshman Reed Dillon triumphed with a 1-2-3 finish on 1 meter diving, Wilimovsky, a sophomore and the 14th place finisher in the 25K race at the FINA World Championships in Barcelona, Spain this year, cruised to victory in the 1000 freestyle in a time of 9:12.51. That time is the sixth fastest collegiate time so far this year. He would also come back and win the 500 yard freestyle in a time of 4:31.32, and in both races he was relatively unchallenged. Northwestern freshman Charlie Cole finished a distant second in the 1000 with a final time of 9:37.97, and he would also take 3rd in the 500 free in a time of 4:39.44. Also a freshman, Northwestern’s John Lieberman would take second to Wilimovsky in the 500 with a time of 4:39.07.
Chase Stephens had a terrific day in the pool for Northwestern, beginning with a tie for first place in the 200 yard freestyle with Eastern Michigan’s Brian Moore in a time of 1:39.64. Both swimmers were within two tenths of a second the entire race with Moore having a slight lead for a majority of the race, but Stephens used his 6’8” frame to sneak in for a shared win. Stephens would also secure wins in the 50 yard freestyle (20.38) and in the 100 yard freestyle (45.60). Freshman Andrew Jovanovic took second in the 5o (21.22) while EMU’s Erik Gissen took 3rd (21.42). In the 100, EMU’s Moore was 2nd in 46.37 while NU’s Wilcox was 3rd in 46.99.
In the backstrokes, Northwestern finished 1-2 in both distances, with Ferguson taking the 100 back in a time of 50.53 over Cubelic’s 50.67. EMU’s Cole Bateman took 3rd with a 51.81. In the 200, NU’s Jovanovic captured his first collegiate dual meet win with a time of 1:51.61 over teammate Grant Halsall (sophomore, 1:52.18) and EMU’s Bateman (1:52.88). Ferguson would also come back to win the 100 yard fly in a 50.00 ahead of EMU’s Krzystztof Gilski (50.23) and Jovanovic
In the 100 yard breaststroke, Auren powered his way to an easy win with a time of 56.47. He touched about 2 seconds ahead of EMU’s Kyle Aerne (58.34) and fellow Northwestern sophomore Van Donkersgoed (58.45). In the 200 breast, Donkersgoed used his smooth technique to secure a first place finish in a time of 2:05.95, while Auren claimed 2nd in 2:08.04. EMU’s Christopher Hodges (2:11.27) just edged out Aerne (2:11.35) and NU’s Aaron Sears (soph., 2:11.40) for 3rd.
The Wildcats finished the meet with a victory in the 400 yard freestyle relay, and Chase Stephens provided a great lead-off split of 44.99 to give his teammates a lead they would never relinquish. Joining him on the relay were Wilcox, Cubelic, and Jovanovic, and since the Wildcats exhibitioned all of their freestyle relays, their winning time of 3:03.37 is not reflected in the final scoring of the meet.
Outside of Moore’s tie for first in the 200 free, the Eagles did get an individual win from Gilski in the 200 yard butterfly, where he won the race in a time of 1:51.79. Halsall finished 2nd in a time of 1:54.47 while EMU’s Aaron Moyer finished 3rd in 1:56.86.
After accounting for exhibitions, the Wildcats won the meet with a final score of 160.5-128.5.
The Northwestern women’s swimming and diving team got their season started with wins over EMU (199-100) and University of Illinois (166-133). The Wildcats had a very good showing from their freshmen, as distance specialist Lauren Abruzzo notched wins in the 1000 free (10:05.65) and in the 500 free (4:56.32). Also in the two event champions club was Lacey Locke who won the 200 yard back in 2:01.92 and the 200 yard IM in a 2:06.10.
Another event champion for the Wildcats came in the form of senior Jackie Powell, who won the 200 yard free (1:52.26) over Illinois’ Megan Marchuk (1:52.51) and NU’s Ellen Anderson (1:52.82). Freshman Lacey Smith took 4th in 1:53.30, thus giving the Wildcats a strong 1-2-4 finish overall.
Despite only winning 5 of the individual events and none of the relays against the Illini, the Wildcats’ depth ultimately proved to be the deciding factor. In the 200 IM, the Wildcats finished 1-2-3-4 as senior Becca Soderholm (2:06.66), Abruzzo (2:06.69), and freshman Ellen Stello (2:08.16) were very close behind Locke. In the 500 free, Anderson touched right behind Abruzzo in a time of 4:57.73 to give the Wildcats another big boost in points, while freshman Melissa Postoll also gave the Wildcats another 1-2 finish by taking 2nd in the 200 back behind Locke with a 2:03.40 of her own.
Though the Illini could not pull out a win over their Big Ten rivals, they had some very respectable swims of their own. They had double champions in junior Allison Meng and senior Courtney Pope, and the team also swept the relays.
Meng was triumphant in the 100 yard backstroke with a 55.27 effort, which was just good enough to top NU’s Locke (55.48) and Postoll (57.53). This is a very good sign for the junior as she only lead off in a 55.1 for the Illini at last year’s Big Ten Championships and also only posted a 55.65 in her individual race at the meet. She would also come back to win the 100 yard butterfly in a 56.78 that was good enough for first over NU’s Stello (57.48) and EMU’s Carly Jackson (freshman 57.75). Meng also lead off both relays for Illinois with a 25.89 backstroke split in the medley relay and a 51.92 100 free split on the 400 free relay.
Pope was an individual event champion in the 50 and 100 yard freestyles with times of 23.82 and 51.52 respectively. She won the 50 over NU senior Valerie Nubble (24.28) and EMU junior Sara Ghaffari (24.33). In the 100, she topped NU’s Powell (52.41) and Illinois’ Marchuk (52.60).
She would also have the fastest splits in the meet on both of her anchor legs, as she posted a 23.3 50 free split at the end of the medley relay and a 51.1 split at the end of the 400 freestyle relay. These are both actually equivalent to her flat-start times from Big Ten’s last year so if she is able to constantly improve during the year, then there is no reason why she can’t be a force for the Illini once more come February.
The Illini also tacked on one more win from senior Erica Lynn in the 200 breast (2:20.63) as she topped NU sophomore Julianne Kurke (2:21.41) and EMU’s Monica Dorszewski (2:21.50).
For Eastern Michigan, the Eagles were able to capture some event titles of their own. Dorszewski won the 100 yard breaststroke in a 1:04.56, which just gave her the edge over NU’s Kurke, and freshman Katie Branch (1:05.70) also from Northwestern. They also swept the 3-meter diving with a 1-2-3 finish by Lauren Dark, Danielle Hulvey, and Melynee Saya.
They would also get one more win from junior Jessie Godlewski, who snared first place in the 200 fly with a 2:03.29 effort. This just beat NU’s Stello (2:03.45) and Illinois’ Sarah Sykstus (2:05.02).