MEDFORD – The Tufts University women's swimming and diving team will look to take another step forward when they compete at the 2019 New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) Championships this weekend (Feb. 14-17) at Wesleyan University.
After an eighth-place showing at the meet in 2017, the Jumbos surged to fourth place last year. Head coach Adam Hoyt's team hopes to match or surpass that accomplishment this winter.
"We started the women's championship season started last weekend at BU and those women got our program off to a great start this championship season with amazing performances," Coach Hoyt said. "I believe the rest of our team will take confidence heading into NESCAC's after seeing such great performances.
"In terms of expectations, our team looks to maintain or improve on our performance from last year. We have a number of women returning for another conference championship and believe that experience will really help them perform well this weekend."
The Jumbos took fourth as a team last season while having just one swimmer finish among the top three in an event at the conference championship. This year's Tufts line-up has top three seeds lined up and down the psych sheet, but the key will be how they perform in the spotlight of the championship season.
The relay events look to be an area where Tufts could score major points. During the regular-season, they had the top conference times in three relays. The 800 freestyle group of junior Grace Goetcheus, freshman Mary Hufziger, sophomore Abby Claus and senior Colleen Doolan posted a 7:36.47 time that was a school-record. Tufts also swam a 200 medley relay school record this year as freshman Jeanette Khowong, sophomore Lily Kurtz, sophomore Sasha Fong and freshman Hannah Spencer posted a 1:44.72 time that is the top seed this weekend. The 200 freestyle relay team of Spencer, Hufziger, Fong and Doolan have a 1:36.69 seed time that is also #1 entering the conference meet.
Individually, 17 of the 24 competitors on Tufts' conference championship roster earned top-eight seeds for the meet this season. From that group are 15 top-three performances including multiple top-three seeds earned by Claus, sophomore Sook-hee Evans, Fong and Kurtz.
Kurtz is a contender for any of the three breaststroke titles. She has the #1 mark in the 100 (1:04.54) and the second-best times in both the 50 (30.60) and the 200 (2:21.50). Fong has the conference's best time in the 100 butterfly (56.85) as well as the second-best mark in the 50 butterfly (25.95). She's also the third seed in the 50 freestyle with a 24.67 touch.
Evans could be a key contributor in the distance freestyle events. Her 5:05.11 ranks third in the 500 freestyle where the Jumbos also have sophomore Amy Socha (5:05.95) and junior Hannah Truslow (5:08.80) in the top eight. In addition to her potential in the individual medleys, Claus is #2 in the 200 butterfly (2:05.46) where Socha (2:06.64) again and Doolan (2:07.11) are part of good Jumbo depth.
Jumbos are the top three seeds in the 50 freestyle with junior Brooke Bernstein (24.28) and Spencer (24.30) joining Fong. Junior Grace Goetcheus (backstrokes, IM) and freshman freestyle sprinter Mary Hufziger can also score high in multiple events. As the #2 seed in the 100 backstroke, Goetcheus leads three Jumbos in the top six of that event including sophomore Jackie Crater (59.17) and Khowong. All three are top-eight seeds in multiple events.
Sophomore Amber Chong is the team's top performer in the diving events and will look to add valuable points in those two contests.
The Williams College Ephs have won 17 of the 18 NESCAC titles since the event began in 2001. Last year Amherst and Connecticut College placed second and third, respectively. Tufts has been third four times, including three seasons in a row from 2011-13. The Jumbos have never been second at the conference meet.
New this year, the conference meet will start on Thursday with the 800 freestyle relay at 7 pm.
A webcast of all six sessions of the 2019 NESCAC Championships will be available at https://www.nsnsports.net/conferences/nescac/.