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  • Emma Garcia

Up on Deck

Photography by Amanda Burkart, BRSN

Pictured from Left to Right: Blake Conway, Pietro Ubertalli, Sebastian Wolff, Joey Gurski, Julian Correa

The influence of watching a teammate is not captured easily, yet it is at the heart of the experience. With the power to affect an individual’s performance in a highly competitive environment like the Ivy League Championships, it is not something to disregard. February 28th through March 2nd, broken down into prelims and finals for individual events, Cornell Men’s Swim and Dive brought some of their “Teagle Magic” to Blodgett Pool at Harvard and created unforgettable team and personal memories. 

Starting the four days with two relays on Wednesday, the 800-yard freestyle relay and 200-yard medley relay, one catering towards distance and the other more towards sprint, the first day started with the excitement they needed to go session two with their individual events. Employing a strategy of youth, an approach slightly different than that of the other Ivies, would push Cornell's team (Pietro Ubertalli ‘26, Jacques Grove ‘26, Julian Correa ‘27, Dominic Edwards ‘25) in the 800-yard freestyle relay to break the school record with a 6:26.55. With Cornell slightly pivoting their approach, it reflects the conscious effort the program put forth to improve. 

Photography by Christin Wolff

Cornell 2024 Men’s Swimming and Diving Ivy Championship Team Pictured

By the time Thursday night’s finals session was about to begin, the hunger among the athletes to perform and prove something permeated the pool. Making adjustments from the morning with an emphasis on moving forward and learning from each swim was pivotal to the team's success throughout the upcoming days. Head Coach Wes Newman ‘09 relayed the importance of “showing up in prelims because if you place 9th, you can't go any higher. If you finish 17th, you can't go any higher either. So it is important to recognize the importance of getting the job done in the morning session.” 

Using this mindset in the future was integrated into the performances of individuals with second swims. Coach Newman mentioned, “It is always fun at night when you are able to take it up a level, and our guys did a nice job of doing that all weekend.”

With the 500-yard freestyle being heavily packed with upperclassmen in finals, Julian Correa’s swim of 4:23.80 would break that narrative, as he would be one of the small handful of freshmen present in the event. 

To continue this trend of the unexpected, the 200-yard individual medley (IM) would bring a new face, Joey Gurski ‘25, to join Sebastian Wolff ‘25 and Ubertalli. This would make for a total of three Cornellians in finals that evening: A Finals: Wolff (3rd, 1:43.94 NCAA B); B Finals: Ubertalli (10th, 1:46.29) and Gurski (12th, 1:46.71).

Photography by Christin Wolff

Pietro Ubertalli (Left) and Joey Gurski (Right)

Friday morning’s swims would have Gurski positioned as third going into finals. Aiming to change this with his finals swim, the focus would be on his first fifty, which would allow him to take the lead and solidify his time of 46.24 (NCAA B). This swim would be Gurski’s first Ivy title and the first Ivy Champion for Men's Swim and Dive since Paige DaCosta’s 100-yard backstroke in 2020.

Image Provided by The Ivy League

Joey Gurski Pictured after Claiming the 100-yard Fly Ivy Title

Speaking on this iconic swim from Gurski, Coaches Wes Newman and Jake Lichter gave credit for the many adjustments made to Gurski himself. “We knew that Joey just needed to have a fast opening fifty, and if he could secure that, then he would be able to close it faster than anyone in the league,” stated Newman.

Lichter explained the performance: “It comes as this trickle effect. We love swimming in Teagle because of the fans and sports network we have here. We call it Teagle Magic because you can do incredible things here. So seeing a teammate do something like that brings that magic to any pool and is translatable to them as well.”

Creating an exciting start to finals on Friday night, this momentum would trickle down to his teammates, with an electric atmosphere in the pool. Correa, up next for his 400-yard IM, was in the pool watching Gurski capture his first Ivy title. 

“I was the only Cornell swimmer in the warm-up pool at the time, and seeing Joey pop up ahead of everyone on that last twenty-five relieved some of that stress going into my race. I got so excited seeing him win, and I knew it was my time to do my best and see what I could do,” Correa noted.

Correa finished second in the event with a staggering time of 3:48.60 (NCAA B). Like with any event, racing alongside strong competitors and watching your teammates crush times creates a spark inside, which is one of the many beautiful moments of the sport. How this affected Correa's mindset reinforces the importance of building one another up.

Photography by Christin Wolff

Paige DaCosta (Looking Forward) and Julian Correa (Looking Towards Paige)

Showing the depth that is always desired in finals, the 100-yard breaststroke would feature multiple swimmers throughout the event. A Finals: Sebastian Wolff (5th, 53.25 NCAA B), B Finals: Connor Brown ‘27 (54.22), Jack Banks ‘25 (54.87), and Haihan Xu ‘27 (55.60), C Finals: Mac Marsh ‘26 (55.19) and Thatcher Dowdy ‘25 (55.63). 

Once again, allowing Cornell to make a statement, the 100-yard backstroke would allow Blake Conway ‘27 to break into a Junior-stacked A Final, finishing with a time of 48.17. Fostering a space to be open about goals and pushing one another, Conway spoke on how the atmosphere regarding Ivies stood out beyond just goals he has for himself in reflecting on the difference to the collegiate atmosphere. 

“What is different about college swimming and club swimming in high school is that you attend classes together and are part of a closely-knit group where you spend time interacting daily,” noted Conway. “This provides a conducive environment for you and your teammates to motivate and push yourselves. Regardless of whether or not you are in the water, we are one team.”

Photography by Christin Wolff

Blake Conway Pictured

Airing on endurance, each Ivy would produce a 400-yard medley relay of varied class years: Cornell's team (Conway, Wolff, Gurski, Grove) would place fifth with a time of 3:10.64. 

Saturday’s final session would bring closing impressions on the season and a way to look ahead. The 200-yard backstroke featured A and B Finalists, many of the same faces from the 100-yard backstroke; it would produce lateral comparisons for reflecting on their performances. A Finals: Ubertalli (3rd, 1:41.96 NCAA B) and Conway (8th, 1:46.22); B Finals: Logan Holt ‘24 (1:48.21).

Reflecting on his 200-backstroke, Ubertalli noted the changes from this year and the last: “Having a faster front-end this year is in part due to the training, with the power being integrated more. I like this change, but I also want to go back and have a strong back-end as well for more balance and something for improvement to strengthen it.” 

While the 200-yard breaststroke would become an all-eyes-on Penn final, Wolff’s appearance would present a new addition to his typical championship events. While this novelty created tension, especially with him knowing that he could "final" in the 100-yard freestyle, it would also create an exhilarating spark within him, resulting in an A-Finals appearance (6th, 1:57.02 NCAA B).

“Knowing the marker now for my 200-breaststroke, I am excited to train for it all season with both Wes and Jake’s support. I like to think that we were not just swimming for ourselves but swimming for each other, which is something I am really glad will be running into next year as well,” Wolff praised.

Photography by Christin Wolff

Sebastian Wolff Pictured

Rounding out day four, a team of Wolff, Grove, Banks, and Edwards finished fourth in the 400-yard freestyle relay with a time of 2:54.70. Including scores from diving, Cornell would round out the four days with 798.5 points. However, focusing on just the numerical number or the time stamps would negate the significant systematic changes the team has integrated throughout the season. With setbacks starting the week leading up to unfulfilled personal goals, each athlete faced challenges and still performed and showed up for the Big Red. 

A common mindset instilled in this program is the “one-percent better” mindset. Each athlete mentions this directly or indirectly in their conversations about performance and the value of the team component in a sport that is often mistaken for individualistic. This mentality was displayed in their times, reflections, and contributions to the environment; it all contributed to the larger goal regardless of the points made. 

What hides behind the goggles is a statement of the unknown. The frustration or joy each feels is not shown in the heat sheets. It is slightly demonstrated in the small window of time a photo of one's face when seeing that scoreboard and a “1” next to your lane. Still, only so much can be reflected on that podium. 

Gurski remarked that “the outcome of a singular race is not what necessarily matters in one’s overall performance. As long as there is the continual effort and focus on giving your all each time you enter the water, that is what matters on the large scale.”

Photography by Amanda Burkart, BRSN

Pictured from Left to Right: Sebastian Wolff, Julian Correa, Joey Gurski, Pietro Ubertalli, Blake Conway

That weekend might have been the end of the season, but it certainly was not the end of the story for the Big Red. With the anticipation of a large senior class next season, there is much more to aim for. Whatever the story includes for them, though, will be marked not only by the spark of Teagle magic, but also by the sheer determination to continue to advance the team by that one percent mark each time.


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