MULIN XIONG / The Dartmouth
The Big Green women finished the Invitational with 1007 points, well ahead of second place Boston University who earned 729 points. The Dartmouth men also won by a large margin, finishing the two-day event with 1109 points, ahead of second place Boston University who earned 716 points.
The Invitational, held at the Upper Valley Aquatic Center in White River Junction, Vt., is the largest home event for the Big Green teams and a chance for Dartmouth to host multiple teams in their home waters.
"It's a really exciting atmosphere, since it is a larger pool than Karl Michael [pool] on campus, while still being a home environment," women's co-captain Isa Guardalabene '13 said. "Students and parents came to support us and it's definitely nice to have a lot of home support."
This year marks the third year of the Invitational, an event head coach Jim Wilson created to fill a gap in the team's season.
"It is the perfect time of year for an Invitational, and as we felt that we were getting to be a much better team, we looked around for Invitationals to go to but there wasn't one locally." Wilson said. "So we decided to start one and other teams picked up on it, and this year we had six other teams join us."
The event has grown since last year, when only two other teams participated in the Invitational. This year, five men's teams traveled to the Upper Valley to compete against the Big Green Boston University, the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, Boston College, University of Maine and Connecticut College. The Big Green women faced the same lineup, in addition to Northeastern University.
Dartmouth issues a blanket invitation and those teams that can afford to come up for the meet are welcome to join, Wilson said.
Both Big Green teams use the Invitational as a tool to measure their midseason progress.
"The Invitational is a good way to see how we fare against teams that we aren't going to face in the championship meet at the end of the season," men's co-captain Will Derdeyn 13 said. "It's a good measuring tool to see where we are at this point in the season, with a few more weeks of hard work before we start our full taper."
Although the Big Green swept last year's event, Dartmouth was prepared for a challenge, as they faced more teams this year.
"Winning the Invitational had been one of our goals from the beginning of the season," women's co-captain Erin Henn '14 said. "We wanted to win it again, but we knew that the competition was going to be steeper and more intense than last year."
Dartmouth anticipated that BU would pose the toughest challenge to a repeat victory in the pool, especially since BU did not participate in the 2012 Invitational.
The Big Green women maintained an overall lead for most of meet, but fell behind to BU towards the end of Saturday, only regaining their overall lead during the final event.
The Dartmouth men and women also had individual success, posting unexpectedly strong times for this point in the season. Big Green swimmers touched the wall first in 19 of the Invitational's 34 events and set seven pool records. The Ivy League Championships is a meet set up in a similar manner to the Invitational where overall team depth with strong finishes outside of top spots is key so the Big Green's stellar showing this weekend bodes well for the team's chances in February at the Ivy League Championships, according to Guaralabene.
"The Invitational definitely shows us that we are the type of team that does well when scored on the depth of the team," Guardalabene said. "Unlike Ivies, dual meets are very weighted on getting first place, but showing how well we did in the invitational setting definitely boosted the team's morale for Ivies." The Invitational also requires heightened stamina since there is minimal time for athletes to recover between events and swimmers sometimes have to compete in back to back races, Henn said.
"It's a tough meet physically and mentally," Henn said. "Depending on different people's schedules though, for some people it was easier than doing a dual meet, and for some it was tougher it's definitely a good warm up for Ivies, especially since Ivies is an easier schedule than the Invitational."
The women performed consistently well throughout the weekend, finishing first on Friday with strong relay performances. The Big Green placed second in the 200-yard freestyle relay and first in the 400-yard medley relay. The team continued to extend its lead on Saturday with help from divers, led by Erica Serpico '12, who took fourth place in both the 3-meter and 1-meter dives.
Like the women, the Big Green men had a successful weekend, getting out-touched in only three events. Dartmouth placed first in 14 of the Invitational's 17 races and first in both diving events. With this weekend's performance, the Big Green continued to ride a wave of momentum that has carried the team through the past couple of dual meets.
"We were fresh off of a huge win against [University of Pennsylvania] and a really close loss to [Yale University]," men's co-captain Zack Doherty '13 said. "We outdid any expectations we could have had for ourselves though as a whole, everyone competed very well and this is a good sign of what's to come."
Doherty is a member of The Dartmouth Staff.
The men also entered Saturday's competition leading the Invitational and extended that lead with strong relay and individual times. The divers also helped secure the win, especially Ryan Shelley '15, who took first place in both the 1-meter and the 3-meter dives.
The Invitational is an especially important meet for the new members of the team, who have not been exposed to an Ivy League Championship style meet before.
"Since the order of events at the Invitational is the same as it will be at ivy championships, everyone can get a sense of what their ivies lineup is going to feel like, which is especially useful for the freshmen," Doherty said.
With only two home meets left for both the men and the women before heading into the Ivy League Championships, the Invitational leaves both teams feeling confident and motivated to finish the regular season strong and head into Championships well rested.
"These next few weeks are important," Derdeyn said. "We have to focus on continuing what we have been doing, working hard in the pool and in the weight room. There isn't a whole lot of time left before taper, and then all the work is pretty much done."
The Big Green will be back in action in Karl Michael pool on Saturday, Feb. 2, when they take on the University of Connecticut.