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Mid-season Reactions – Lions Looking Strong (2/2)

Picking up where I left off yesterday, the gentlemen of Columbia Men’s Swimming and Diving Team have started off on a strong 2016 campaign after some tough outcomes in the fall.  This Saturday they take the trip to Annapolis to challenge Patriot League heavyweight Navy.  Coming off the Lion’s third straight win in 8 days, I’ve been recapping the recent meet at Brown and making projections about this Saturday’s face-off.

I’ve already made my comments on the first half.  Anyone knows Columbia likes the second half better (and has a true preference for the third).  Below I’ll apply my analysis to the events from the 100-free to the final relay.

Navy Columbia poster

Vintage Football program cover from a 65-year-old Navy vs Columbia game. 

100 Free – Lions Terry Li and Codi Saunders came up big in this event last week grabbing the top 2 spots, overpowering Jack Nee and Will Lacosta, though all four clocked in with a 46.  Navy will probably put up a similar array of times as they can probably go 4 deep with 46s, and sport a couple of guys who could, if pressed, deliver 45-highs.  It’ll be a tight race, and I wouldn’t be surprise if all 5 scoring positions are within three-quarters of a second or less.

200 back – Michal Zyla got under the 1:50 mark and took a commanding win in the 200 back, though he was followed by a wave of Brown.  Zyla will square off against Navy’s David Carlson who will likely swim in the 1:48 range, though his best this year against Army is already a 1:43. This race will be a big potential point swing for Navy as they have Vince Everman and Shane Condon sitting in the 1:50-1:51 range. Columbia’s next swimmer, Zach Thomas, was a 1:47 at last year’s ECAC meet but has topped out at 1:52 so far this season.

200 Breast – Jae Park took the top spot at Brown with a 2:02 over Brown’s Connor Lohman, Waylon Jin, and freshman teammate Jack Smith (2:05). Park’s best this year from Princeton Invite is a 2:00. Behind him, in a historically deep squad, Columbia has 5 other swimmers under 2:10 so far. Navy’s Brayden Laffeur and Eric Collins will likely swim in the 2:03-2:05 range meaning the event will be largely competitive, but the question is how fast Navy stand-out Marlon Brutkiewicz will be.  Recording a 1:56.0 against Army, Brutkiewicz is always a threat to break 2:00 in season. Park will have his hands full in this race, but never count him out of a good race.  For depth, any of the other Lion-breaststrokers (Forrest Davis, Joe Lozano, Zach Thomas, Coby Zucker…) could choose this meet to go off and lead the chase pack.

500 Free – Brian Tsau won the 500 ahead of 3 Brown distance men led by Cory Mayfield last weekend.  The rest of the Lions’ duel-meet top 3 (Eric Ng, Nikita Bondarenko) all fall in the 4:30s, as do many of the Navy Distance top brass in season (Thomas Duvall, Noah Martin, Sam Ciocco, Ethan Whitaker, Shane Condon). It’s hard to say who Navy will go with for this race: both Duvall and Martin have been under 4:20 against Army (faster than Navy’s top two end of season times in 2014-15), but they may fill in elsewhere in the lineup. And if Jae Park throws his cap in the ring he’ll also be looking to bag a 1st place finish.

100 Fly – The Lions grabbed 1-2 over brown with Kevin Frifeldt and Terry Li both logging in 49s. Riley Springman submitted a 50.00 for third. Frifeldt cranked out a 49.2 in Uris Natatorium in the Homecoming victory over Cornell 2 weeks ago and has been electric all month.  Navy’s Jon Debaugh and Hayes McCullagh respresent the top threat with consistent 49s or better and, with Zach Piedt and Ryan Bailey, they constitute the quartet of midshipmen to go 48.0 or better this year. Lions Alex Mango, Joe Shepley and Omar Arafa have all been 50 this season and if any were to dip into the 49 range they could change the scoring conversation.

3m Dive – Whether it happens first or third-to-last, the 3 meter dive is the signature event for Columbia’s Jayden Pantel.  This season he has twice raised the Uris Pool and Columbia Varsity record.  His polish is impressive and his difficulty is unmatched.  Pantel easily took first against Brown, besting Jonathan Schlafer’s 333 by 50 points.  Columbia Freshman Kevin Fulton dove a season-high 300 to take 3rd.  For Navy, Freshman Joe Kaszubowski is their top 3-meter performer, followed by Nate Belch.  They are competitive enough to likely hold Fulton out of the top 3 unless he pulls a career-best performance, but they should be hard-pressed to match up against Pantel.

200 IM – The penultimate race is always different. In some meets, if the result is decided already, the times are hard to trust; in others, swimmers are literally fighting to lock up the meet.  This past week Jae Park fended off Riley Springman of Brown for the win in a 1:51.6. On the depth charts, Terry Li and Nikita Bondarenko have 1:53s from various competitions.  These times all stack up fairly well against the top Navy times which (depending on who they utilize) will likely be in the mid-to-low 1:50s. True, 7 midshipmen have broken 1:52 this season, but typically not in duel meets.  The Lions could make up some ground here if they need it. In the Ivy League, the top 20 times are all under 1:51, but for this competition that might take gold.

Freestyle Relay – Depending what is decided upon this could go either way.  The Lions took 2nd with a 3:08 against Brown; at the same time Navy has no trouble producing a 3:05 relay week-to-week (or a 2:57 for special occasions).  Columbia has probably not lined up their top 4 100-swimmers in peak shape yet this season but it is hard to say they could be favorites in a 400 free relay.  In the 200 relay, however, I think Columbia looks a little better (despite having an Ivy League-worst best time of 1:23.5).  It will still be a close race as Navy’s best time yet is a 1:22.3.  Either way, bets are on the fact Coach Bolster will be counting on this meet coming down to the last relay.

For more updates and opinions expect infrequent and unannounced posts.

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