PASADENA, Calif. (Jan. 17, 2015) – Freshman Henry Baer (Lafayette, Calif. / Acalanes) swept all three of his events for the second time this season as the Caltech men's swimming and diving team came up just short down the stretch against rival Occidental College on Saturday morning.
Baer took first place in the 50 and 100 Free for the second time in three dual meets and senior Kevin Yu Seattle, Wash. / Lakeside) broke his own 100 Fly record, setting a new mark for the third consecutive year as the Beavers fell, 129-102.
"We were in it the whole way once again," Head Coach Jack Leavitt said. "This team is resilient and battles in every meet, we are just coming up a swim or two short."
The meet began with 3-meter diving, and with no Oxy divers competing, the Beavers picked up 13 automatic points thanks to senior Benjamin Grabowski (Lake Forest Park, Wash. / Inglemoor) and freshman Alexander Bourzutschky (Potomac, Md. / Montgomery Blair), who just learned a full lineup of dives to even compete two days prior. Grabowski posted a near-double-digit improvement on last week's performance, earning approximately 35 points on both his reverse somersault tuck and back somersault straight, while Bourzutschky scored 90.8 behind a solid forward somersault tuck.
"As any athlete knows, it can be hard to keep full focus when there's no opponent, but the divers did a fabulous job," Diving Coach Ute Zimmerman said. "This was only Alex's second week on the boards at all, and his first on the 3-meter with only one practice."
Oxy immediately erased the margin with a 1-2 finish in the 200 Medley Relay and added 13 points in a hotly contested 1000 Free, with senior C.J. Culpepper (Leonardtown, Md. / Leonardtown) breaking the 11-minute mark for the first time in his career to take second. The Tigers extended their lead to 16 with a big haul in the 200 Free as junior Patric Eck (Fullerton, Calif. / Troy) narrowly touched out one of two Oxy swimmers for second but sophomore Chris Bradley (Half Moon Bay, Calif. / Serra) was out-touched himself to place fifth.
Baer quickly got Caltech back into the mix with a first-place finish in the 50 Free and Yu just missed second place by .02, trimming the deficit to 11. Oxy briefly stretched the lead back out to 18 with another win in the 200 IM, though a big time drop by Culpepper came up just short of third place.
The Beavers recovered from the blip to take first place in the next three straight events, rocketing up to within just one point heading into the final four events. Grabowski and Bourzutschky earned another 13 points on the 1-meter, with the rookie topping the 100-point mark for the second straight meet, and Yu broke his own record in the 100 Fly before Baer completed his individual double with a victory in the 100 Free.
"Diving spotted us some huge points, both to start the meet and heading into Backstroke to give us an opportunity to go ahead," Leavitt said. "Kevin setting the school record and Henry winning the 100 were obviously big too, and great to see."
The momentum would stop there, however, as Oxy posted a 1-2-3 finish in a tight 100 Backstroke and took the top two spots in the 500 Free and 100 Breast to surge ahead and put the meet out of reach.
The Beavers were determined not to leave with their heads down, though, and with the Free Relay remaining prepared to defend what has been their strongest event of the season at both 200 and 400 yards. Eck earned his team a one-second lead with the fastest leadoff leg in the pool, but Oxy's "A" relay pulled ahead by a body length on the second leg despite freshman Avikar Periwal (Potomac, Md. / Montgomery Blair) slapping down a 52.09. Bradley fought back onto the hip of the Tigers relay, leaving Baer with nearly a second to make up. The rookie did that and more, blazing through a 22.17 first 50 to regain the lead by the second turn and brought it home in a career-best 47.26.
"We had a lot of season and personal bests today," Leavitt said. "We started really well with C.J. and Avikar in the 1000, then Kevin set another school record in the Fly and Henry was huge winning the 100 and coming back in the 400 Relay as the anchor. We are really excited with where we are at with a little over a month before the SCIAC Championships."
Leavitt and the Beavers will host a SCIAC double-dual meet with Claremont-Mudd-Scripps College and Whittier College on Saturday, Jan. 24 at 10:30 a.m. Please note that all home meets will be held at Pasadena City College due to ongoing repairs to the Caltech competition pool.