PRINCETON, New Jersey, December 7. THE Princeton men's swimming and diving team didn't get a team win out of the 2008 Big Al Open, but that doesn't mean the team failed to impress. The 22nd-ranked Tigers challenged No. 5 Florida throughout the weekend, but despite a pair of wins by Doug Lennox, Princeton finished the Big Al Open in second place.
Florida pulled out the event with 983.5 team points, while Princeton took second with 912 points. Utah finished third with 528.5 points. Princeton also picked up a 200-93 dual victory against Brown.
The day began with the 1650 free, an event that found three Princeton swimmers in the top seven. Freshman Travis McNamara took fifth in 15:22.23, while sophomore Patrick Biggs took sixth in 15:23.16. Senior tri-captain Robert Griest took seventh with a time of 15:25.07.
A.J. Kennedy finished fifth in the 200 back in 1:49.05, while freshman Colin Cordes took eighth in 1:51.99. In the 100 free, Jon Hartmann finished fifth in 45.69. There was another fifth-place finish for Princeton in the 200 breast when Jon Christensen finished in 2:02.54; that was followed up quickly by senior tri-captain Will Schaffer, who finished in 2:03.03.
The 200 fly proved to be Princeton's most exciting event of the evening. Heading into the event, the DeNunzio Pool record was set in 2001 by Princeton's Carl Hessler with a time of 1:45.22. Senior Dan Eckel was able to top that time, but his name won't be the one hung from the rafters. Eckel finished in 1:44.65, second best to classmate and tri-captain Doug Lennox, who won the event and hit an NCAA A-cut with a winning time of 1:42.87.
Lennox followed it up with a final relay victory; joining teammates Hartmann, Geoff Faux and Mike Carter, Lennox helped Princeton to a win in the 400 free relay with a time of 2:57.98.
For the women, junior All-America swimmer Alicia Aemisegger set another DeNunzio Pool record, this time in the 200 fly, while three freshmen teammates made event finals during Sunday's session of the 2008 Big Al Open. It was the final event of the 2008 portion of the schedule, and head coach Susan Teeter hopes the team can use the weekend as a springboard into the major challenges ahead.
"I'm pleased with the way we competed this weekend, and we still have a long way to go if we want to achieve our goals and defend our title," Teeter said after Princeton finished third in the competition, behind the likes of No. 6 Florida and Utah. "The competition in our league has set a tough standard early in the season and will only get stronger. I believe we will go into the Ivy League championships as the underdogs. Our focus is simply to swim fast. That is all we can control. It's going to take a special effort every day until the Ivy championships to make sure we have a chance, and I believe we have that kind of fight in us. We have proven that over the years."
Princeton saw tough competition this past weekend, especially from a Florida team that won the Big Al Open with 962.5 team points. Utah placed second with 729 points, while Princeton finished third with 633 points. Columbia placed fourth with 343; Princeton also claims a dual meet victory over Brown during the weekend, although the exact score had not yet been tabulated.
Sunday's final session began with the 1650, where Princeton freshman Aislinn Smalling took fifth overall in 16:58.75. Sophomore Ming Ong placed 10th in 17:08.38, and she followed that up with Princeton's best finish in the 200 back, a 14th-place time of 2:05.90.
Sophomore Megan Waters closed out a terrific weekend by placing second in the 100 free with a time of 50.78, while senior co-captain Justina DiFazio took fifth in 51.72. Junior Courtney Kilkuts added a second-place finish in the 200 breast (2:15.88), while freshmen Kerry Gruendel (2:23.28) and Jillian Altenburger (2:23.39) took seventh and eighth, respectively.
Princeton's only win Sunday came from its top performer over the last three years; Aemisegger set a pool record and hit an NCAA B-cut when she swam the 200 fly in 1:55.85. Teammate Monika Friedman also reached the finals and placed eighth in 2:03.83.
The evening ended with the quartet of Waters, Emily Trautner, DiFazio and Aemisegger placing third in the 400 free relay in a time of 3:23.69.
Special thanks to Princeton for contributing this report.