2023 Summit League Fan Guide: Denver Dominance Remains, But Lindenwood Shakes Things Up

2023 Summit League Swimming & Diving Championships

Denver has long been a dominant force in the Summit League ever since joining in 2013, with the Pioneer men and women having swept the championship titles in eight of the nine seasons in which they’ve been in the conference.

The lone slip came in the 2020-21 season, when the Denver men’s team fell to third after racing with a shorthanded squad after a number of its athletes were suspended early in the campaign. South Dakota took advantage of the opportunity and claimed its first-ever Summit League crown, though the Denver men came back with a dominant victory last season.

  • Teams Competing: Denver, Eastern Illinois, Omaha, South Dakota, South Dakota State, St. Thomas, Lindenwood, Southern Indiana

On the women’s side, the Pioneers have been unstoppable and will aim for their 10th straight title this week after roaring to the win last year by more than 300 points.

The Denver men are in position to go back-to-back, though Lindenwood, competing for the first time in the championships after joining from Division II Great Lake Valley Conference last year, has some elite swimmers who should make plenty of races must-see TV.



  • Women’s 1-meter diving
  • Men’s team diving (exhibition)
  • 200 medley relay
  • 800 free relay


  • 500 free
  • 200 IM
  • 50 free
  • Men’s 1-meter diving
  • 200 free relay


  • 400 IM
  • 100 fly
  • 200 free
  • 100 breast
  • 100 back
  • Women’s 3-meter diving
  • 400 medley relay


  • 100 IM
  • 1650 free
  • 200 back
  • 100 free
  • 200 breast
  • 200 fly
  • Men’s 3-meter diving
  • 400 free relay



Jessica Maeda, Sophomore – Denver: Maeda rolled to three individual wins as a freshman last season, and will be favored to do so once again, leading the Summit League in the 100 breast (1:01.85), 200 breast (2:13.27) and 200 IM (2:02.59) this season. The sophomore holds a massive gap over the field in the 200 breast, but will have a pair of tight races on her hands in the 100 breast and 200 IM, with teammates Sopha Bricker (100 breast), Mia Moulden and Mina Ader Solaker (200 IM) close behind.

Emily Kahn, Sophomore – South Dakota: Kahn picked up second, third and fifth-place finishes individually at the 2022 conference championships as a freshman, but has hit a new level this season, setting personal bests of 22.68 in the 50 free, 49.73 in the 100 free and 55.28 in the 100 fly at the Augustana Invitational in November. Her freestyle performances rank her first in the conference this season, including holding a big gap over the field in the 100, while she’s in the thick of a razor-thin lineup in the 100 fly.

Natalie Arky, Senior – Denver: A redshirt senior, Arky is undefeated in the backstroke events throughout her Summit League career, having swept the 100 and 200 in both 2020 and 2022 (she didn’t compete at the 2021 meet). This season, Arky has been solid, hitting 53.99 in the 100 back and 1:56.41 in the 200 back to rank second and first in the conference, respectively, but she’s likely saving her best for this week. Arky went bests of 52.96 and 1:53.37 during midseason invites last year, and wasn’t able to match those times at the Summit League meet. If she can get back down there this season, she’ll likely three-peat in both events. She’s a near lock in the 200 back, but could potentially have a race on her hands in the 100, with teammate Gaby Antonini (53.83) having been faster this season. Arky was also last year’s runner-up in the 100 fly and ranks fourth this season.


Elliott Irwin, Junior – Lindenwood: Irwin didn’t compete during the second half of last season for Lindenwood, but the Australian native has certainly been on fire since the start of the 2022-23 campaign as he enters the championships as the fastest swimmer in the Summit League in three events. Irwin clocked times of 19.63 in the 50 free, 43.23 in the 100 free and 46.73 in the 100 fly at the Ohio State Invitational in November, making him the favorite to go three-for-three individually this week. Irwin’s time in the 100 fly is also under the Championship Record of 47.12.

Kieran Watson, Sophomore – Denver: Watson has really come into his own in his sophomore year with the Pioneers. He won the 1650 free title as a freshman, but has shown marked improvement across the board this season and enters the meet as the top seed in the 500 free (4:23.44), 1650 free (15:13.97) and 400 IM (3:54.06). He’ll get challenges from teammates Dylan Wright and Riley Babson in the 500 and Marco Nosack in the 400 IM, but Watson has now taken a step forward and become the man to beat.

Dan Kunin, Freshman – Denver: A newcomer with the Pioneers this season, Kunin has joined the team from Israel and seamlessly transitioned to yards, blasting times of 48.16 in the 100 fly, 1:45.76 in the 200 fly and 1:47.90 in the 200 IM at the Princeton Big Al Invitational in early December. Those swims have solidified Kunin as the frontrunner in the 200 IM and a threat for victory in the 200 fly, while the 100 fly he’s more than a second back of Irwin, but still seeded #2. With SCM best times of 51.9/1:58.2/2:01.2 across the three events from December 2021, Kunin may have more time to drop in yards and will be an exciting name to follow.



100 Butterfly: South Dakota fifth-year Cassie Ketterling didn’t even race the 100 fly at the 2022 Summit League Championships, but enters this year’s meet ranked first in the conference after swimming a best of 54.32 at the Augustana Invitational. Ketterling is followed by a trio of Denver swimmers, led by junior Ines Marin (54.41), and there are a total of 10 swimmers sub-56 in the Summit League this season. The defending champion, Omaha’s Annika Harthoorn, is only 10th-fastest this season at 55.86 after being the only swimmer to break 55 seconds at last year’s championships.

100 Breaststroke: The aforementioned Jessica Maeda leads the conference and will seek a title defense in the women’s 100 breast, but she’s got a competitive field lined up behind her as Denver teammate Sophia Bricker, South Dakota’s Taylor Buhr, Lindenwood’s Beata Maruszczyk and St. Thomas’ Grace Urkiel are all in the mix. Bricker and Urkiel were second and third last year behind Maeda, while Buhr and Maruszczyk are both newcomers this season and could shake things up.


200 Freestyle: With the top 12 swimmers in the conference within a second and a half of one another this season, the men’s 200 free projects to be an intriguing battle. Of the 12 men sub-1:40, seven of them come from Denver, so this comes with the caveat that some of these swimmers likely won’t be in the field, but there are too many names tightly bunched at the top for this not to be a great race. Leading the way is Lindenwood’s Patryk Winiatowski, who will aim to disrupt the Denver dominance after he clocked 1:38.40 during midseason invites. Denver’s Watson (1:38.85) is second, and we know he may opt for the 400 IM instead of the 200 free, so his Pioneer teammate Tommy Hancock (1:38.86) will likely be the second seed. Defending champ Dylan Wright is ranked fourth this season, while last year’s runner-up, SDSU’s Sam Johnson, is only 15th, showing just how deep the event is this season.

100 Backstroke: South Dakota sophomore Adam Fisher leads the field in the men’s 100 back this season after dropping a best time of 48.12 at the Augustana Invitational. Fisher, who was fourth last season in 49.52, will have a battle on his hands with the SDSU duo of Rafael Negri (48.20) and Aiden Carstensen (48.86) close behind and Omaha’s Mason Schroeder (48.93) also under 49 seconds. South Dakota’s Zack Kopp, third last year, should also be a factor, having been 49.03.



  1. Denver
  2. South Dakota
  3. Lindenwood


  1. Denver
  2. Lindenwood
  3. South Dakota

There’s not too much to add—Denver’s depth on both sides distances them from the rest of the field as their dominant run figures to continue. In their Summit League debut, the Lindenwood Lions project to break into the top three on both sides, with the men’s team seeded to jump past South Dakota into second.

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Katie Middaugh
1 year ago

What about diving? Denver, Lindenwood and USD have great competitive divers.

1 year ago


About James Sutherland

James Sutherland

James swam five years at Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ontario, specializing in the 200 free, back and IM. He finished up his collegiate swimming career in 2018, graduating with a bachelor's degree in economics. In 2019 he completed his graduate degree in sports journalism. Prior to going to Laurentian, James swam …

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