Matsumoto ’16 shines despite women’s swimming and diving defeat

Women place sixth at Ivy Championships in Cambridge as freestyle relay teams excel

Senior Staff Writer
Monday, February 23, 2015

Kate Dillione ’15 had three individual top-five finishes this weekend, earning her a chance to qualify for the NCAA championships.

The women’s swimming and diving team finished sixth at the Ivy League Championships, a mere three points behind fifth-place Columbia. The women (4-5, 2-5 Ivy) competed at Harvard, accompanied by a supportive men’s squad acting as their cheering section.

“Every year, the women’s meet is the week before the men’s, so we definitely take away what we can to get us psyched up for our meet,” said Brian Barr ’15, co-captain of the men’s team. “As we try and keep these programs together, I think it’s important that we show we’re still one big Bruno family.”

Co-captain of the women’s team Gina Matsumoto’s ’16 performance in the 200-yard buttefly was a highlight of the meet, astonishing teammates and conference foes alike. After lagging in the first seven laps, she surged in the last stretch to defeat Elsa Welshofer of Princeton by a hundredth of a second. Matsumoto captured Bruno’s only victory of the weekend.

“I had no idea it was that close. All I was really focusing on was getting my hand to the wall,” Matsumoto said. She remained unaware of the results until seeing her teammates’ reactions to the time on the board. “Once I realized, it kind of felt unreal. … It was a really great feeling knowing all the hard work I put in throughout the season paid off,” she said.

Matsumoto’s effort was evident this weekend, with her time in the 400 yard individual medley earning her a spot in Brown’s record books by smashing a 17-year-old program record. She finished fifth in the race and notched an NCAA  “B” cut performance. The “B” cuts are time standards that qualify swimmers to be invited to NCAA Championships, as opposed to “A” cuts, which are automatic qualifiers, Matsumoto said.

Co-captain Kate Dillione ’15 raced to her own NCAA “B” berths by finishing in fourth place in the 200-yard freestyle, second in the 100-yard freestyle and fourth in the 50-yard freestyle. Reia Tong ’16 also represented Bruno in the A Final of the 50 free, finishing in seventh place.

In the weeks leading up to this weekend’s championships, the Bears focused on honing their skills and racing technique. Training becomes increasingly individualized as athletes focus on their specific strokes and races, Barr said. For many, this meant perfecting their freestyle — an exercise that seemed to pay off this weekend.

Bruno showed its freestyle prowess over the course of the three-day meet, particularly in relay performances. The Bears’ freestyle specialists matched up in the various relays to put Brown on the board multiple times.

The 800-yard freestyle relay team of Dillione, Sarah Cronin ’18, Korbyn Simpson ’18 and Elly Vitek ’17 finished in fifth place. Dillione, Cronin, Tong and Aja Grande ’18 combined to form the 200-yard freestyle relay squad, which raced to a third-place finish. Tong anchored the race and showcased her speed by passing her Columbia rival to secure Bruno’s top finish. In the 400-yard freestyle relay, the same relay team combined to notch a second-place finish.

“As a team, those relays just stepped up and swam for Bruno,” Barr said.

Individually, Grande and Tong swam to quick times in the 100 free, as they finished in second and third of the B final, respectively. Other strong B  final performances came from Caroline Vexler ’17, who captured the 200-yard fly, and diver Rachel Speakman ’16, who finished second in the B final of the 3-meter dive.

Vitek finished fourth in the B final of the 500-yard freestyle to round out the performances. Bruno also earned an A final finish in the 400-yard medley relay as the quartet of Vexler, Dillione, Jenna Zagoren ’18 and Katie Roach ’17 raced to a sixth place finish.

The meet caps off an Ivy season marked by continued progress and focused training. But behind all the practice and hard work has been a spirited support system that has defined the team’s attitude and mentality.

“It was really great to be part of a team that loves each other and stands behind each other in every practice and every race,” Matsumoto said.

Going forward, the men’s team hopes to capitalize on the momentum and excitement of this weekend as it travels to Princeton Thursday for its chance at the Ivy Championships. The men are confident that they have put in the work, and they are now looking to collect its dividends.

“We’re as prepared as we need to be in the pool,” Barr said. “We just have to make sure we’re mentally and physically ready outside of the pool.”

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