The absence of athletic competition has not prevented UChicago athletes from garnering conference, regional, and national acclaims for their abilities. The NCAA’s decision to cancel winter championships and the entirety of the spring season, made in response to the COVID-19 pandemic that has shuttered all university life, abruptly ended seasons—and careers—for some of the top athletes in the country, including many Maroons. Without the ability to compete for individual or team championships, the UChicago student-athletes have searched for and found closure in the concept that “the journey is the goal,” as track standout fourth-year Alexander Scott said.
Yet, in an attempt at normalcy during a time where that seems otherwise unthinkable, many collegiate governing bodies have proceeded to dole out their typical end-of-season awards for seasons and championships that never occurred. We will never know what storylines we missed out on: a podium sweep for the female divers, the expected dominance of men’s tennis, the continued ascension of the lacrosse team into postseason play? But we can still recognize the accomplishments of the Maroon student-athletes whose sustained excellence never quite got the platform it deserved.
“The [All-American] accomplishment is different because I feel like I didn’t quite earn it,” second-year diver Elizabeth Cron admitted. After earning All-American status last season, along with the rest of the female divers, she said of this year, “Our whole team earned our spots at nationals…and I’m disappointed I didn’t get the chance to dive at that meet again.”
“In terms of being named All-American, it is just a title. There is so much more everyone else and I can work towards in this sport. I know most of us never gave the [award] a lot of thought going into the season—we just wanted to do our best for the team,” said first-year swimmer Arthur Kiselnikov.
For the athletes who have garnered these awards, there will likely always exist some question of “What if?” Kiselnikov said that, while he had felt content in the moment of cancellation, he has since been nagged by that question: “I definitely wonder what the team may have achieved if we competed at nationals and that ‘not knowing’ is what still gets to me.”
When the “last dive” meant a literal last dive, Cron initially felt disappointed although she soon recognized the importance of going home to family. “I’ll remember the 2020 season for its duration, not its end…. Being at the national championship meet does not mean as much to me as competing for my team and with my team, which I was able to do at each meet during our season. While I would have loved to compete with our senior, Agnes Lo, at her final nationals, I got to compete alongside her and cheer for her at our last meet of the season—where our women swept both boards—which will be a pretty incredible memory for a long time…. We finished on a very high note,” said Cron.
While the 2020 season met an unexpected and unwanted end, the athletes have shifted their focus onto the next season. Kiselnikov is “very much” looking forward to the team’s return to the pool, although he knows it will be “strange” to be back with the team after a long hiatus. He said that the 2020 ending “definitely adds fuel to the flames…. Losing the opportunity to compete for a national championship makes me think of coming back next year and really showing a huge leap in strength as a team and shocking our competition.” Cron, too, advised that the competition take heed because “I know that we will come back next year even stronger. Watch out.”
After such a long break, though, Cron anticipates great excitement upon her return to the pool and joked that she imagines “the dives will not be too high quality for a while…. It’s hard to get back on the boards and not fall off every time after being off for more than a week. So it will be an interesting—and funny to the observer—time.”
The College Swimming and Diving Coaches Association of America selected 32 UChicago swimmers and divers as All-Americans, based on the criteria of having qualified for the NCAA national championship. The total of 32 national qualifiers was the highest in school history, and the Maroons represented the third-largest total of All-Americans in the nation. Among standouts, fourth-year Byrne Litschgi earned the distinction in six events, including the 200-yard backstroke, in which he is the defending national champion, and rookie Arthur Kiselnikov similarly tallied six. On the women’s side, third-year Gillian Gagnard paced the team with five distinctions, and a trio of female divers—fourth-year Agnes Lo and second-years Elizabeth Cron and Alice Saparov—once again repeated with a clean sweep of All-American honors in the one-meter and three-meter dive events.
The nationals-bound trio of wrestlers also earned All-American honors, as selected by the National Wrestling Coaches Association. For the second time in his career, fourth-year Steve Bonsall was placed on the Second Team at 157 pounds. First-year Cole Fibranz capped off a 24–3 debut season with Second Team All-American status at 285 pounds. After a 26–1 season and four invitational titles, second-year Ben Sarasin was named a First Team All-American in the 184-pound weight class, garnering consecutive All-American honors in separate weight classes.
Fourth-year Laura Darcey was voted the National Women’s Field Athlete of the Year. The honor, bestowed by the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association came after a historic season wherein Darcy tallied the top pentathlon performance in the nation.
The Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) awarded six UChicago athletes with All-American honors. Second-year Lauren Park earned the status after posting a team-best record of 17–4 at the top singles slot and winning the ITA Central Region singles title. The dynamic rookie combo of Perene Wang and Claudia Ng was also recognized; the duo won the ITA Central Region doubles title and tore through their season with a 19–2 record. On the men’s side, second-year Joshua Xu had a 6–4 season en route to All-American honors in singles. In doubles, the combination of third-year Jeremy Yuan and fourth-year Erik Kerrigan earned the honor with a perfect 8–0 record.
In addition to All-American honors, UChicago athletes picked up a number of other awards, including All-UAA and UAA All-Academic standing. As the status for fall seasons continues to face uncertainty, we will look to continue providing coverage on all athletic information pertinent to the University.