Photo by Joe Bergman
WHITTIER, Calif. (Feb. 22, 2015) – Freshman Henry Baer (Lafayette, Calif. / Acalanes) made the podium and achieved All-SCIAC status with a third-place finish in the 100 Free as the Caltech men's swimming and diving team shattered a total of nine program records at the SCIAC Championships.
After breaking the 100 Free record in the prelims, Baer lowered his mark to a 45.94 in the finals – coming just .24 shy of the NCAA 'B' cut – to become the first Beaver swimmer to earn All-SCIAC honors since 2007-08, and record Caltech's best finish in the event since NAIA champion and NCAA runner-up Henry DeWitt won a third straight title in 1968. He later led the 400 Free Relay in demolishing the record it had already broken in December, shaving another five seconds to bring the new mark down to 3:12.35.
The Beavers placed ninth with 229 points, topping last year's total of 210 and, most significantly, finishing just 69 points out of seventh place to more than halve last year's gap of 155.
After an overcast prelim session in the morning, the skies opened up with rain as warm-ups got underway. With steam rising from the pool all night, conditions could hardly have been less ideal for the final night of the competition, but the Beavers were not about to let that affect their performance.
The night commenced with the final heat of the 1650 Free for each gender, and with senior C.J. Culpepper (Leonardtown, Md. / Leonardtown) and freshman Avikar Periwal (Potomac, Md. / Montgomery Blair) having dropped over 20 and 50 seconds, respectively, during their swims in the mid-day session, ended up in 16th and 18th place to pick up a handful of points. Following the 200 Back, it was Baer's turn to defend his third-overall seed.
The rain turned to a torrential downpour as Baer stepped up to the starting block, but the rookie never wavered as he posted the second-fastest split in the pool over the first 50 at 21.78 and brought it home in 24.16 to record the Beavers' best finish of the meet.
Senior Benjamin Grabowski (Lake Forest Park, Wash. / Inglemoor)'s and freshman Alexander Bourzutschky (Potomac, Md. / Montgomery Blair)'s points became official in the 1-meter diving competition after placing outside the top nine, who went on to compete at the finals, earlier in the afternoon. This left Caltech 13 points behind Chapman University for eighth place with just the 400 Free Relay remaining.
The Beavers' 'B' relay made up two of those points in the consolation heat, easily outdistancing the Panthers' foursome by more than five seconds. Freshman Eric Lin (Potomac, Md. / Montgomery Blair) led off with a 50.67 and Periwal shaved nearly two seconds off his previous best time on the second leg, clocking a 50.42. Senior Matthew Lappin (Westminster, Md. / Westminster) then cranked out another personal-best 51.85 and Culpepper brought it home with his first-ever sub-50 split in the final race of his career, touching in 49.65 as the team posted a 3:22.59.
Junior Patric Eck (Fullerton, Calif. / Troy) led off the 'A' relay with a 48.39 and was followed by junior Kevin Yu (Seattle, Wash. / Lakeside) and sophomore Chris Bradley (Half Moon Bay, Calif. / Serra), who clocked in at 49.33 and 49.21, respectively, as the Beavers trailed Chapman by about a body length going into the anchor leg. Baer made up that ground on the first 50, splitting nearly a full second faster than the Panthers' last man as he hit the wall in the third-fastest split in the race, at 45.42.
Earlier in the day, Lappin and freshman Philip An (Troy, Mich. / Troy) improved on their career-best times of 2:16.00 and 2:10.53 in the 200 Back, while sophomore Jordan Bonilla (Weston, Fla. / Cypress Bay), freshman Ishwar Subramanian (Melbourne, Australia / American Embassy School), senior Juan Adame (Sylmar, Calif. / Sylmar Math, Science and Tech.) and freshman Richard May (Guilford, Conn. / Choate Rosemary) dropped big chunks of time in the 100 Free, with Bradley and Eck also trimming about a second apiece. Lin just missed out on qualifying for the finals with a 2:17.22 in the 200 Breast, being named first alternate, while juniors Matthew Cedeno (Virginia Beach, Calif. / Ocean Lakes) and Galen Gao (Irving, Texas / St. Mark's School) also competed in the event.
The Beavers end the year having broken nine of the program's 21 records, including the 50 and 100 Free, 100 Back, 100 Fly and all five relays.