Photo by Michael Wong
COMMERCE, Calif. (Feb. 15, 2017) – The Caltech men's swim & dive team sits in fifth place after opening the 2017 SCIAC Championships with record-setting performances in both relay events contested.
*Caltech 'A' and 'B' 200 Medley Relays labeled incorrectly
The meet began with the 200 Medley Relay consolation heat, in which the quartet of senior Leon Ding (Blaine, Minn. / Spring Lake Park), junior Hanzhi Lin (Potomac, Md. / Montgomery Blair), sophomore Adam Dai (Santa Barbara, Calif. / Dos Pueblos) and freshman Alex Moraru (Southlake, Texas / Carroll Senior) tied for an impressive fifth in the race and 14th overall. Lin kicked things off with one of the five fastest 50 Back splits in program history, clocking a 25.49. Dai kept Caltech in the early mix among the second group of teams after the clear top three with a solid breaststroke leg, followed by Ding slapping down a surprisingly quick 24.34 butterfly split that had Caltech narrowly in fourth place heading into the final 50. Moraru was unable to hold off Cal Lutheran University, which benefitted from the second-fastest 50 Free split in the pool to overtake the Beavers, but managed just enough to touch simultaneously along with the third-fastest final leg, which came from Occidental College – both below 21 seconds.
As exciting a start as that group provided, the 'A' team somehow managed to top it in the final heat. Freshman Thomas Gallup (Houston, Texas / Phillips Exeter Acad.) and sophomores Dylan Lu (Kingwood, Texas / Kingwood), Henry Steiner (Petaluma, Calif. / Casa Grande) and Jonathan Willett (Edina, Minn. / Edina) recorded a phenomenal fourth-place finish, touching less than .30 clear of the fifth- and sixth-place relays while missing the podium by a mere .51 and shattering the previous program record by more than four seconds with a 1:33.70. Lu opened with a full-second drop in his 50 Back, after which Gallup split the second-fastest 50 Breast in the pool and the fastest in Caltech history at 25.37. Steiner pulled the Beavers within .06 of a third place with a 22.64 butterfly leg leading into the final 50, on which Willett fought off two of the three opponents racing neck-and-neck with the Beavers for the team's best finish on any relay in over a decade.
The night ended as quickly as it began and with no less excitement, as the 'B' 800 Free Relay snuck a couple extra points when the University of Redlands was disqualified. Junior Avikar Periwal (Potomac, Md. / Montgomery Blair) anchored with the fastest split of any swimmer on the 15th-17th place teams at 1:50.44. That preceded a fifth-place finish and another crushed record for the 'A' squad of Steiner, Moraru, Willett and Lu in the final heat. Steiner led off with a new program record 1:44.21, followed by the second-fastest 200 swim by a freshman in program history from Moraru (1:45.10). Perhaps the highlight of the evening, however, was Willett shocking everyone with the best split on the team at 1:43.18, putting Lu in position to hold off the University of La Verne, which he did with ease to claim the 32-point haul. The final time of 6:59.55 bested last year's record-setting mark by more than 10 seconds.
The Thursday meet schedule consists of the 500 Free, 200 IM, 50 Free, women's 3-meter prelims and men's 3-meter finals.