As Wellesley Swim and Dive Captain Jessie Feng ’19 knows, “There’s nothing like swimming upwards of 6,000 yards at 7 a.m. or hurtling yourself off the 3-meter diving board that builds camaraderie.” Wellesley’s Swim and Dive team has worked hard this season to not only build up their muscles and endurance, but also build up a team culture of love and support.
While competing at the grueling twoday Seven Sisters Championship at Mount Holyoke College last month, Wellesley’s Swim and Dive athletes showed support and faith in their teammates’ abilities. After day one of competition, Wellesley Blue had claimed only two first-place finishes out of the 13 events that were held. Maura Sticco-Ivins ’18 claimed her fourth consecutive career victory in the one-meter dive, scoring 451.70 and earning her the Marly Pineda Seven Sisters Swimming and Diving Award. Wellesley’s 200 medley relay team, formed by Kayleigh Svensson ’20, Danielle Peterson ’20, Emma Helmich ’21 and Margaret Harrigan ’21, was also victorious with a time of 1:51.29.
Although Wellesley Blue trailed behind Vassar College by 11 points after the Vassar Brewers won 11 of the 13 events that day, the team remained confident in their abilities. “We went into the first session on Saturday morning knowing that we might not end the session first points-wise but throughout the morning, I didn’t see anyone lose heart or become disheartened,” Feng commented.
On day two, the team’s confidence in themselves and in their teammates helped carry them to a memorable victory over Vassar College. Wellesley earned four more first-place finishes on Sunday, starting with Sticco-Ivins earning her eighth Seven Sisters title in the three-meter board, marking the end of an astounding undefeated career at Seven Sisters. Sticco-Ivins’ score of 510.95 qualified her to compete at the NCAA diving championships this season. Helmich earned her first individual Seven Sisters title in the 100 free with a time of 55.38. Feng also clinched a Seven Sisters individual title in the 200 butterfly with a time of 2:13.24.
In the last event of the meet, the 400 medley relay, the Wellesley team knew they had to beat Vassar to secure its victory. Feng explained, “There are no words to describe how loud the pool deck got once the final leg of the relays dove into the water. Swimmers, divers, coaches and spectators alike all got on their feet and screamed like there was no tomorrow.”
The passionate cheers from their fans and teammates helped Sunny Chiang ’19, Solveig Stensland ’21, Kayleigh Svensson ’20 and Emily Yeager ’21 out-touch Vassar by a thrilling 0.24 seconds to finish with a time of 3:41.05.
This marks the 28th Wellesley College victory in the history of the meet and an unprecedented 21st consecutive victory. Wellesley’s success was not the product of a few star swimmers; it was the collective effort of a team with a remarkable depth of talent. Although Vassar secured more first-place finishes overall, Wellesley made sure to capture the second and third place finishes, which made all the difference.
Despite the fierce competition, Feng shared that the real reason Seven Sisters is such a special event is due to the support not only within Wellesley’s own team, but also between competitors. Seven Sisters traditionally hosts a banquet following the first night of competition where swimmers and divers are encouraged to interact with and get to know their competitors and fellow women’s college student-athletes. As Feng recalled, “Before we left [the banquet], I mentioned briefly to the table that I would be swimming the 200 butterfly the next morning and admitted that I was a little nervous about it. The next day, as I stood behind the blocks for the 200 fly, one of the friends I made at dinner the night before came up to me and wished me luck.” It’s the small gestures like these that show the true spirit of sportsmanship and camaraderie that both Wellesley Swim and Dive and its fellow Seven Sisters schools share.
The team is currently preparing for the 2018 New England Women’s & Men’s Athletic Conference (NEWMAC) Championship set for February 22 through 25 at MIT.