The Eastern men’s and women’s swim team wrapped up its regular season at St. Louis combining for 13 first place finishes. The Panthers will head to the Summit League Conference meet Feb. 17.
Their 13 first place finishes, though, were not capped off with another win, as both the men’s and women’s teams fell short of the Billikens. The men lost by a score of 165-110 and the women by 177-93.
Although the teams lost, coach Jacqueline Michalski said she was happy with how they swam especially being so late in the season.
“I was extremely impressed with how they swam,” Michalski said.
The Panthers were also able to post times that will help them with seeding when conference rolls around in two weeks.
Freshman Jason Manning earned a fourth place finish in the men’s 500-yard freestyle at 5:06.66 but dropped nine seconds from his previous best time. Senior Jake Roberts won the event with a time of 4:54.78.
Manning’s previous best time was 5:15.10 from the House of Champions meet on Nov. 20.
“Knowing that I can drop that much time before shaving and tapering makes me very excited because once I’m rested I know I’ll be able to go much faster,” Manning said.
Manning said he is relieved to have finished the regular season because he was nervous coming in. He now said he is excited for the conference meets and knows that the team will do well and post good times.
Senior Kelsey Ferguson was one of the 13 Panthers who touched the wall first Saturday afternoon. She took first place in the 200-yard breaststroke with a time of 2:29.25, just two seconds from setting a personal in-season best.
“This part of the season is always really hard because we are all tired and worn down,” Ferguson said. “But seeing that I can swim like that, tired, makes me really excited to see what I can do at conference this year because I know all the hard work I’ve put in will pay off in the end.”
Sophomore Matt Jacobs took first place in the 200-yard breaststroke for the men. Jacobs finished with a time of 2:15.53.
The men and women both shined in the 200-yard freestyle relay. The relay team of sophomore Stephen Truchon, junior Brogan O’Doherty, junior Shane Witzki and sophomore Steve Fishman took first with a time of 1:26.12, out touching the SLU team by just .42 seconds.
The women, however, did not win the event but came just .53 seconds behind the SLU team. Senior Kelsey Ferguson, senior Joann Wakefield, sophomore Dani DiMatteo, and senior Kaylee Morris swam the event for the Panthers.
Both Eastern have been working hard since the beginning of the season, training 20 hours a week without tapering, but swam at a level that was higher than what was expected of them, Michalski said.
“They wound up swimming faster times than they did the weekend before,” Michalski said. “They just did a really good job overall and I can’t be more proud of where we’ve come as a team.”
The Panthers have just over two weeks to taper down and get ready for conference, which is held at Indiana-Purdue University Indianapolis and will be a great meet for the team, Michalski said.
After winning his first career event last weekend, freshman Nicholas Harkins almost grabbed win number two but was out touched by the SLU by just .07 seconds.
Michalski called it the most competitive event of the meet and that it was competitive from the start.
Junior Paige Eavenson also earned a first place finish for the women in the 200-yard butterfly, just three seconds shy of an in-season best time.
Freshman Lauren Oostman won the women’s 200-yard backstroke with ease, coming in at 2:09.45, almost six seconds faster than the second place SLU swimmer.
The Panthers now have two weeks to prepare for conference as this was their final meet of the regular season. For the freshmen, this is their first run at conference, but for seniors like Ferguson, this will be their fourth time there.
“Having gone through conference three times already does make me feel more relaxed knowing what I’m going into these next couple of weeks training,” Ferguson said. “I know what the atmosphere will be like when we get to our conference meet so I feel very prepared going into it.”
Sean Hastings can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]