ITHACA, New York, January 27. THE Cornell men's swimming and diving team completed its first unbeaten dual meet season since 1946 with a convincing 191-109 victory over Columbia on Senior Day at Teagle Pool on Friday afternoon. The Big Red improved to 10-0, the most wins in a season without a loss in program history, and captured the unofficial regular season EISL title with a win over each of the other eight schools in dual meet competition for the first time in school history. Cornell has tied for the championship during the 1983-84 campaign.
"I'm happy for so many people," said head coach Joe Lucia. "I've been getting e-mails all week from our alumni who were excited about what we have been doing. We had a great group of seniors, and this group has hung together. Everyone has stayed together and when you have an anchor like Mike Smit and David McKechnie, it raises the level of the entire team. I'm very proud of all they've accomplished this season."
On a day where the Big Red honored its highly decorated senior class, Cornell won 13 of the 16 events contested, setting one school and three pool records in the process. With a near-capacity crowd at Teagle Pool hoping to watch history in the making, the Big Red took the lead after the opening event, the 200 medley relay, and cruised to victory over the Lions, topping Columbia for the third consecutive year.
Cornell finished just off a pool record pace in the 200 medley relay, as the team of Philip Baity, Dave McKechnie, Jackson Wang and Brad Gorter touched the wall first in 1:31.32, just .17 off the pool record despite not being challenged late. Cornell's team of senior Brad Newman, freshmen Nick Campbell and Ryan Boyle and senior anchor Braden Orr finished third to earn two additional points for the home team. Brad's brother Wesley then opened up a huge lead and cruised in for an easy victory in the 1,000 free with a time of 9:34.02.
Senior Mike Smit, who earned a lengthy pregame introduction during the senior ceremony, delivered for the crowd in his first event, the 200 free. Smit exploded out of the gates and set a pool record of 1:38.13 to capture nine big team points. His performance was followed up by a 1-2 Cornell finish in the 100 breast, as Baity (51.29) and Brad Newman (52.18) swept the top two positions in the event.
School record-holder Dave McKechnie easily outdistanced the field in the 100 breast in a time of 55.85, with freshman Nick Campbell taking third in 58.55. Despite not taking home first in the 200 fly, freshman Max Royster (1:52.09) led a 2-3-4 finish for the Big Red. Sophomores Nick Cochran (1:55.71) and Mike Ramos (1:56.78) rounded out the top four.
The 50 free belonged to junior Brad Gorter, whose time of 20.70 easily topped runner-up Tobin White of Columbia (21.38) and teammate Jackson Wang (21.59) as Cornell started putting the meet away, upping its lead to 110-59.
Senior diver Luke Baer continued to extend the lead with nine valuable points on the 3-meter, as his score of 331.28 just squeaked by Columbia's Justin Reardon (328.43) for the victory, setting up five consecutive victories in the pool for Cornell. Wes Newman started it up by finishing just .01 second off a 20-year pool record set by Randy Sprout with a swim of 44.96 to top teammate Brad Gorter (46.23). His second 50 was a blazing 44.96.
The Big Red again went 1-2 in an event, this time in the 200 back as Baity touched the fall first in 1:49.99, followed closely by Royster in 1:52.22. After seniors McKechnie (2:04.18) and Rich Bowen (2:07.64) placed 1-3 in the 200 breast, Smit put the Big Red on the verge of victory with 147 points thanks to his first-place effort in the 500 free. Smit's time of 4:32.09 was just a hair quicker than Columbia's Hyun Lee, who hit the wall in 4:32.60 in one of the top races of the afternoon. Nick Campbell captured two points for his fourth-place effort.
Fittingly, the brother tandem of Wes and Brad Newman clinched Cornell's victory and the unbeaten season with a 1-2 finish in the 100 fly. Wes captured first in a pool record of 49.12, while his senior brother ended the afternoon second in 50.58. With 162 points after the event, the Big Red guaranteed itself a victory and a 10-0 dual meet finish.
Cornell's divers picked up a 2-3-4 finish in the 1-meter, with Baer again leading the way. His 254.77 bested Chris Donohoe (250.12) and Alaric Eby (243.32), but was just behind Columbia's Reardon, who secured a score of 286.12.
The final two swimming events saw freshman Nick Campbell and senior Rich Bowen combine for a 2-3 showing in the 200 IM, with Campbell hitting the wall in 1:54.10 and Bowen following in 1:59.33, but Cornell ended the meet in style, winning the 400 free relay in a school-record time of 2:59.97. The team of Wes Newman, Brad Gorter, Dave McKechnie and Mike Smit put an exclamation on the evening, bettering the pool record by more than 2.5 seconds and shaving .54 seconds off the school record, becoming the first sub-3 minute team in school history in the event.
"It's been growing since early in the season, and the confidence and the ability to compete, win tight races and race tough, we're going to continue that and I think we'll swim great at the conference meet," Lucia said.
The 1945-46 team was the last to go unbeaten in dual meets, earning a 5-0 record. The 1943-44 (9-0) and 1944-45 (7-0) also went through a season without a loss. The perfect record in dual meets doesn't mean the Big Red is expected to win the EISL team championship at Princeton beginning on Feb. 22, but it does make Cornell one of the teams to beat. Earlier this season, Cornell topped the Tigers in dual meet competition for the first time since the 1983-84 season and topped Harvard for the first time since the 1985-86 campaign.