Big Red men’s and women’s swimming and diving teams both took home NCAC championships this past weekend. In a four day meet, with events being held from this past Wednesday through Saturday, Denison has once again declared its dominance in the NCAC.
Both teams have quite the potential to make a splash at the NCAA Division III National Championships and NCAA Division III Diving Regional to be held in March. On the first day of finals swimming, the men took an early lead. The Big Red team of freshman Ryan Fleming, junior Spencer Fronk, sophomore Nick Spaniel, and senior Quinn Bartlett gave Denison its first points of the meet with a second place finish in the 200 yard freestyle relay. Their time of 1:21.92 was bested by Kenyon’s relay team, who placed first overall with a time of 1:19.92.
DU’s Al Weik and Conner Downard had pivotal finishes in the 500 yard freestyle.Weik, a junior, and Downard, a first year, placed second and fourth with times of 4:30.04 and 4:34.73, respectively. Weik was out touched by only 0.01 of a second by Kenyon’s Joseph Guilfoyle. Denison dominated the 200 yard IM.
Junior Carlos Maciel took home first place, and an NCAC championship meet record, with a time of 1:50.03. Second place went to Fronk, who touched in right a#er Maciel with a time of 1:50.30. Big Red swimmers junior Jackson Humphry, first year Joe Brunk, sophomore Matt Montague, and Bartlett all finished within the top eight.
The 400 medley relay team of Bartlett, sophomore Damon Rosenburg, Fronk and Maciel could not outswim the Kenyon foursome, yet finished with an “A” cut time of 3:18.81. Denison freshman diving sensation Ben Lewis bested senior Gabe Dixon in the 1-meter dive. Lewis came out on top with a “nals score of 488.95. Two-time defending champion Dixon “nished second overall with 475.90 points. Sophomore Connor Dorff finished in fourth place with a solid 439.05 points.
Through the first 12 events, the DU men were on top with 560.5 points. Kenyon and DePauw rounded out the top three with 442 and 299 points, respectively. The second day of finals swimming was highlighted by a record breaking 200 medley relay. Junior Sean Chabot, Rosenburg, freshman Andrew Rich, and Spaniel set both an NCAC championship meet record and school record with a time of 1:28.97.
Humphrey pocketed a first place finish in the 400 IM with a time of 3:57.40, the only swimmer in the even to break four minutes. Weik and Montague would finish third and fourth in the event with times of 4:00.78 and 4:01.81. Rich was the sole Big Red swimmer in the top eight finishers in the 100 yard butterfly. His time of 48.96 gave him a second place “A” cutime Big Red men continued to dominate in the 200 yard freestyle, with Maciel earning an “A” cut and a second place finish with a time of 1:37.94. Chabot, Brunk, and Fronk would finish third, fourth, and sixth, respectively.
Rosenburg was a clear contender to take home first place in the 100 yard breaststroke,
after a prelim swim of 55.29 set a new NCAC championship record. His finals time of 55.45, an NCAA “A” cut, was good enough to take home first place.Quinn Bartlett almost held on to an early lead in the 100 yard backstroke. Though he would finish second to Kenyon’s Jon Rooker,
Bartlett’s time of 49.67 still was an “A” cut swim. After a second place finish in the 800 yard freestyle relay, Denison was still sitting in first place with 1111.5 points, ahead of Kenyon’s 1065.
“We knew we were going to get huge points from diving on Saturday,” first-year Conner
Downard explained. “We really felt safe going into the last day with a 50 point lead, and with our diving events ahead of us.”
Saturday’s events proved to be in Denison’s favor. Weik gave the Big Red their first victory of the day in the 1650 yard freestyle, the longest distance event of the entire meet. Weik earned himself an “A” cut with a time of 15:30.14. Downard and fellow freshman Nathan Thorne would finish fourth and fifth overall with times of 16:07.44 and 16:17.07. Denison almost swept the top three places in the 200 yard backstroke. Bartlett and Chabot !nished 1-2, earning “A” cuts with times of 1:47.69 and 148.56. Bartlett broke the NCAC championship record last year in the same event. Montague would !nish fourth with a time of 1:51.87. Brunk and Rosenburg finished neck and neck in first and second place in the 200 yard breaststroke, both earning “B” cuts in the
process, with times of 2:04.40 and 2:04.46. Humphry and sophomore Dan Hellman had first and third place finishes in the 200 yard butterfly with times of 1:50.54 and 1:51.65. In the 3 meter dive, Denison’s Dixon dove to his final NCAC first place finish in his career, annihilating the rest of the competition with an impressive 534.40 points.
Dorff, Lewis, junior Matt Poulos, and freshman Nathan Lightman would finish third through sixth, respectively, ensuring that Denison would be able to hang on to the NCAC championship. Through all events, the Denison men would out swim all other schools, earning a team total of 1704 points. Kenyon and De-Pauw rounded out the top three teams with 1515 and 987 points total. Denison’s victory marked the team’s fifth NCAC title in a row. The women battled it out with rival Kenyon in a showdown that would last until the final event on Saturday evening. The first points of the four day meet came from the divers. First year Kelly Frazier captured First place in the 3 meter dive, besting Kenyon’s Maria Zarka. Frazier dove to 437.15 points, just over 32 points from the NCAC record set in 1991. Sophomore Sterling Keiser took fifth place with and even 330 points. Later in the meet, Frazier would take first yet again in the 1 meter dive, diving to 438.65 points. Keiser again added points to the women’s total, this time taking sixth overall with 324.10 points. The women were victorious in the !rst relay event of the meet as well.
The foursome of freshman Ashley Yearwood, junior Morgan Nuess, and seniors Maddie Armitage and Alyssa Swanson !nished first with a time of 1:33.35, an NCAA “A” cut. The women swam nearly four full seconds faster than their prelims time in this finals race. Freshman Taylor Johns and Swanson placed second and third in the 500 yard freestyle, touching the wall at 4:55.40 and 4:56.26, respectively. Kenyon’s Mariah Williamson won the event with a time of 4:54.89. In a thrilling race, the Denison women dominated the 200 yard IM. Sophomore Michelle
Howell captured the NCAC record, finishing first overall with a time of 2:04.02. Junior Natalie Lugg would finish right after Howell to take second, !nishing at 2:05.13. Sophomore Meghan Bagley added points to Denison as well, placing fourth overall with a time of 2:06.90.
In the highly anticipated 50 yard freestyle Yearwood and Nuess would take first and
second with times of 23.65 and 23.76, respectively. Denison alum Olivia Zaleski still holds
the NCAC record of 23.19, set back in 2009. In the 400 yard medly relay, the Denison
team of senior Lindsay Zeberlein, Lugg, first year Claire Van Fossen, and Swanson, though seeded after prelims, could not hold on to first place. They would finish with a finals time of 3:46.74. Kenyon came out with the victory at 3:43.37, almost 10 full seconds faster than their prelims time. After the !rst day of !nals swimming, the DU ladies were down by four points to Kenyon, 498-494. While Kenyon’s initial lead was intimidating, the Denison women in the 200 yard medley relay were able to land some sort of revenge. The team of Armitage, Lugg, Yearwood, and Nuess connected with the wall before Kenyon. Denison would finish first with
a finals time of 1:43.79 to Kenyon’s second place at 1:44.25. Denison and Kenyon were again neck and neck in the 400 yard IM. Denison’s Howell came out on top, finishing with a time of 4:21.42, both a new NCAC record and NCAA “A” cut.
Freshman Taylor Johns and Bagley finished fourth and fifth with NCAC “B” cuts. The second, third, and sixth through eighth place finishes all came from Kenyon swimmers. Denison’s Swanson was victorious in the 200 yard freestyle, barely out touching Kenyon’s Hillary Yarosh and Hayley Townsend. Swanson, who set the record for the event back in 2010, !nished with a solid 1:51.44. Freshman Mary Van Leuven took the fifth place spot with a time of 1:53.01. Denison women had a strong showing in the 100 yard breaststroke.
Lugg gave the Big Red first place points with her time of 1:04.96. Freshman Marissa Bednarek and Armitage finished third and seventh with times of 1:05.97 and 1:08.56. In the 100 backstroke, Zeberlein and Year- Reigning champs return with NCAC title wood finished second and third with times of 56.57 and 56.71, respectively. Kenyon’s Celia Oberholzer took first, just a half second ahead of Zeberlein with a time of 56.18. This close loss would not at all discourage Zeberlein. In the 200 yard backstroke, an event which was predicted to come down to Zeberlein and Oberholzer yet again, the tables were switched. This time, Zeberlein came out on top, earning herself an NCAA “A” cut with a time of 2:00.65. This time would also prove to be enough to earn her a new NCAC record. The 800 yard freestyle was one of the tightest races of the meet.
The Denison team of Swanson, Zeberlein, Van Leuven, and Howell could not hold off the Kenyon foursome, who would go on to set the new NCAC record of 7:26.75. The Denison ladies were able to take second with a time of 7:28.89. At the end of the second day of !nals swimming, the Big Red ladies were now on top, beating Kenyon 1162-1153.5 Denison’s Johns and Swanson took second and third in the 1650 yard freestyle, the longest event of the meet. Both would earn “B” cuts in their finals swims with times of 16:57.09 and 17:03.68, respectively.
A key “1-2” finish in the 200 yard breaststroke came from Denison’s Bednarek and Lugg. In an electric race, they would finish with times of 2:21.30 and 2:21.45, just out touching Wittenberg’s Molly Gustafson, who finished at 2:21.52. While the men were sitting pretty heading into the final day of finals, the women were neck and neck with Kenyon up until Saturday night. In the 400 freestyle relay, the team of Yearwood, Nuess, Van Leuvem, and Swanson knew that all they had to do was simply not disqualify and they would take home the NCAC championship for the fifth time in a row. While this realization might have encouraged the foursome to swim cautiously, this did not at all intimidate the Big Red women.
Instead of taking it easy, they took home first place, besting a second place Kenyon with a time of 3:25.84. This final victory ensured that Denison would take the NCAC title for the sixth time in the program’s history, finishing with a team total of 1654 points. Kenyon and DePauw rounded out the top three finishing schools with 1604.5 and 904.5 points, respectively. After their stellar performances, Denison’s Ben Lewis and Kelly Frazier were honored as the 2013 NCAC men’s and women’s divers of the year. A number of Denison coaches were also recognized by the NCAC. Coach Greg Parini was named the 2013 NCAC women’s swim coach of the year. Diving coach Jason Glorius was named as both the men’s and women’s 2013 NCAC diving coach of the year. Downard believes that the success of both teams shows the direction the swimming and diving program has been moving in for a number of years.
“It was a huge part for me coming here knowing that I was going to have the opportunity to compete for a national championship each year,” he explained. “There are not many teams in the nation that have a legitimate ability to compete for a national championship each year.”
Additionally, Downard recalls the support the men and women have for each other.
“Since we have the same coaches for the men’s and women’s team, it would be a little less awesome if only one of the teams won.”
For those swimmers who have yet to qualify for NCAAs to be held later in March, the Kenyon invitational is a last chance opportunity to improve their times in the hopes of being invited to nationals. Typically, anywhere from between the 14th and 18th fastest swimmers in the country usually will partake in the national meet, though the number changes for each event.
Both the men’s and women’s teams are expected to make a run for the Divison III NCAA championship, and there is still even more time to prepare. The NCAA DIII Diving Regional is held March 1-2 in Grand Rapids, Mich. and the NCAA DIII Championship is held March 20-23 in Shenandoah, Texas.