Both the men’s and the women’s swimming teams traveled down to Chapel Hill, N.C. for the Janis Hape Dowd Nike Invitational. The Blue Jays proved that they could compete among Division-I competition, as Hopkins earned multiple top-eight finishes and NCAA-qualifying times throughout the course of the three-day meet.
Competition started Friday night, as the men opened with a successful third-place finish in the 200 Free Relay. Junior Jasper Van Cauwelaert, sophomore Marcelo Lauzurique, senior Peter Lazorchak and sophomore Noah Frassrand tag-teamed to finish in just 1:25.51.
Freshman Mitchell Simmons continued the Hopkins momentum with the most impressive finish of the night. He led the Blue Jays in the 500 Free, earning a fourth-place finish and posting an NCAA B and career-best time of 4:32.63. Sophomore Riley Mears touched the wall next, finishing with a career-best time of 434.28 and earning a sixth-place finish. Senior Erik Bostrom and junior Matthew Garza followed in ninth place and 11th place, respectively.
The Jays ended the first day with the 400 Medley Relay, where they took home the first and second-place finishes. Mears, Simmons, Garza and Frassrand took the top spot. Lazorchak, Van Cauwelaert, De Priest and Bostrom followed quickly after, taking second in the race.
The women also had an impressive showing Friday night, as the team of senior Phi Nguyen, sophomore Tiffany Lara, senior Sami Kegel and freshman Kristen Alicea-Jorgensen finished in third in the 200 Free Relay.
Alicea-Jorgensen had the standout performance of the night, as she took third place in the 50 Free and posted an NCAA B time of 23.66. Sophomore Mikayla Bisignani finished next in fifth with a career-best time of 24.03. Senior Natalia Rincon finished just 0.02 seconds later, taking sixth place in the race.
Alicea-Jorgensen reflected on her performance with confidence and looks forward to the upcoming Blue Jay Invitational, where she is excited to see more success from her team.
“I am happy with my performance this past weekend, as I was either right on my best time or a little faster,“ Alicea-Jorgensen said. “I look forward to racing again at Blue Jay Invite and getting to cheer on my teammates and seniors one more time before NCAAs.”
Similar to the men, the women also finished the first day on a high note, as they finished first in the 400 Medley Relay. Rincon, junior Therese Larson, senior Emily Cheng and freshman Sophia Girgenti finished in 3:57.19 to beat their Division-I competitors.
The men returned to the pool Saturday morning, looking to qualify more swimmers to the NCAA Championship squad. De Priest opened the day with a fourth-place finish in the 100 Fly, with his prelim swim of 51.25 being a career best.
Several Blue Jays then competed in the 400 IM, where Arena took home the top spot, beating the field in 3:58.54. Bostrom followed closely after, finishing in third place and with a time of 3:59.43. Arena and Bostrom both swam fast enough to post NCAA B cut times.
The women followed suit with another solid day of competition. Rincon led the Jays in the 100 Fly, placing in third in 56.90. Girgenti also led her race, the 200 Free, as she had a top-eight finish. She earned fifth with a time of 1:54.22. Sophomore Carmela Irato and sophomore Amy Pearson followed in fifth and sixth, respectively.
Competing throughout three long days of races, Hopkins has shown to remain focused on their goals and determined to continue their day-one and day-two successes. Alicea-Jorgensen explained how difficult it is to fall into a cycle of introspection during these long meets and emphasized the need to continue looking forward and staying open.
“It is really easy to become discouraged if you make a mistake in a race or your technique is off. Being open to alter your stroke a little or try something new to see if you can go a little bit faster helps you not dwell on what went wrong in your race but rather something to improve upon,” Alicea-Jorgensen said.
Entering the last day of the meet, both the men and women had noteworthy finishes. The men started with fourth and seventh-place finishes in the 100 Free, with Simmons clocking in at 47.22 and De Priest posting a career-best swim of 47.66.
Lauzurique once again shined, this time with a third-place finish in the 200 Breast. Both his prelim and finals times were NCAA B cuts, with his prelim time of 2:01.95 being a career best. Cauwelaert followed in fifth place, and he also posted an NCAA B cut time. The men concluded the meet with two NCAA B cut times. Arena and Mears both had NCAA B cut times and career-best times in the 1650 Free.
The women also had a successful last go-around in the pool. Rincon especially had a strong end to the meet. She opened the day with a second-place finish in the 200 Back and closed the night for the Jays with an NCAA B cut time of 56.41 in the 100 Back.
Other impressive performances came from Alicea-Jorgensen, who took second place and a career-best swim in the 100 Free, and Larson, who won the 200 Breast.
Alicea-Jorgensen articulated how proud of and grateful for her team she was, emphasizing how supportive they are of each other.
“The team’s performance was above and beyond. The team supported each other beautifully through all the ups and downs that one can experience at a swim meet. While swimming is technically an individual sport, it really can take a team to make or break a meet or swim,” she said.
In reflection of her first season as a collegiate athlete, Alicea-Jorgensen expressed gratitude for all the support she has received from her teammates and coaches.
“My first season has been one of the best of my life,” she said. “I have never been with a group of more dedicated and determined individuals both in and out of the water. The coaching staff is wonderful and willing to go above and beyond for any of us and really care about turning us into well-rounded people.”
The Blue Jays will return to the pool on Feb. 22 and 23, as they host the Blue Jay Invitational.