After finishing with subpar records in the regular season, the Baruch College men’s (2-6 overall, 2-2 CUNYAC) and women’s (5-5 overall, 5-1 CUNYAC) swimming teams entered the CUNYAC championships with a chip on their shoulder. With the season on the line, the Bearcats were determined more than ever to make a statement in the finals.
The three-day CUNYAC championships kicked off on Friday, Feb. 5 at the APEX at Lehman College. On the men’s side, the College of Staten Island Dolphins claimed the CUNYAC title for the third consecutive season with a score of 568 points. Baruch and Lehman College both scored 500 points and finished in a tie for second place. For the women’s teams, the Hunter Hawks scored 552 points and topped the second-place Bearcats for the second-straight year.
Senior captain Jacky Lau led the attack for the Bearcats with 45 individual points, including two first-place finishes in back-to-back events in the 100-yard freestyle and the 200-yard backstroke. On the second day, Lau also anchored the relay in the 800-yard freestyle event, which was the only relay event that the Bearcats won. The Bearcats were also the only team where each swimmer in the relay recorded less than two minutes per leg.
Freshman Wendy Ambrosio led the Lady Bearcats with 44 individual points and set the tone early by winning gold in the first individual event of the championships: the 500-yard freestyle. Ambrosio also shined in the meet’s longest event, the 1,650-yard freestyle, in which she finished with a time of 20:24.83. Hunter’s own freshman, Irene Collins was the only other swimmer to finish within a minute to Ambrosio in the distance event but was unable to keep up with the necessary pace to pull off the upset. Despite the major victory, Ambrosio’s performance is not surprising because she had already been dominating the endurance-heavy events from the beginning of the season. Since the earlier meets, Ambrosio had quickly made a name for herself as the team’s go-to swimmer in the distance freestyles.
Senior captain Rose Lee also had a standout performance to give the Bearcats a fighting chance throughout the competition. After winning two silver medals in the 400- and 200-yard medley relay and bronze in the 200-yard freestyle, Lee captured her first gold in the same event that she won in the championships last year: the 100-yard backstroke. Hunter’s Madeline Hew came close to stealing the first place glory, staying neck-and-neck with Lee through the final stretch, but ultimately touched the wall 0.52 seconds too late of Lee’s 1:04.24 finishing time.
Although Baruch was winless in all of the relay events on the first day, both the men’s and women’s teams generated strong individual performances that kept them a force to be reckoned with heading into Saturday’s competition. After the first day of the CUNYAC championships, the Baruch men’s and women’s team stood in third and fourth place respectively in the team rankings. The College of Staten Island was the frontrunner for the men’s, leading by 18 points. Hunter was ahead of the women’s teams by 16 points.
On the second day of the championships, Lee, Amy Sung, Yee Phang and Ambrosio opened up with a tight race in the 200-yard medley relay. The Bearcats managed to shave off 0.6 seconds in the anchor leg, but the Hawks were still able to edge out the Bearcats by a mere 0.67 seconds for the gold. Sung later captured bronze in the 400-yard individual medley and the 100-yard breaststroke to propel Baruch past CSI and Lehman College into second place in the standings with 271 points by the end of Saturday’s schedule. Hunter had also built up a sizeable lead by the end of the evening with 81 points, outpacing every other team.
Miguel Meza kept it close on the men’s side in the rankings with a breakthrough performance in the 400-yard individual medley. Despite having a seed time of 5:10.60, Meza finished with a final time of 4:40.42 to win silver in the event. Meza later added a third-place finish in the 100-yard butterfly, before earning a gold medal with the winning 800-yard freestyle relay. Still, the men’s team struggled and was unable to rack up enough points to advance in the rankings. The Bearcats trailed the second place Lehman College Lightning 319 to 370 and the CSI Dolphins 319 to 405.
On the third and final day of the championships, both Baruch teams were able to pick up some ground to finish high in the standings. The men’s team returned to action with a series of strong performances by Lau, who contributed 32 individual points on that day alone. David Pejovic and Jonathan Hla added to the bang with a third- and fourth-place finish in the 100-yard breaststroke. Baruch ended up coming back after being down 51 points to share a second-place finish on the podium with Lehman.
Both squads will now have a chance to rest their swimmers for approximately two weeks before resuming their 2015-16 campaigns in the Metro Conference Championships, which is set to take place at Rutgers College from Feb. 19 to Feb. 21. The Bearcats will then cap-off their seasons with a final trip to Annapolis, Maryland, in the following week to compete in the ECAC championship tournament.