2024 Northeast Conference Fan Guide: The Women’s Meet Is Going to Be Spicy🔥


  • Dates: Tuesday, February 20 – Saturday, February 24
  • Location: Spire Institute, Geneva, OH
  • Defending Champions (men): Howard (1x)
  • Defending Champions (women): Central Connecticut State (1x)
  • Live Results
  • Live Video: NEC Frontrow
  • Championship Central: men’s site ׀ women’s site
  • Fan Guide
  • Teams: Central Connecticut (women), Howard, Le Moyne, LIU, Merrimack (women), Sacred Heart (women), St. Francis Univ (women), Stonehill (women), Wagner
  • Women’s Meet Central
  • Men’s Meet Central
  • Live Stream

The Northeast Conference saw two new champions in 2023, with the Howard men winning their first-ever NEC title, while the Central Connecticut State women won their 7th crown and first since 2017.

In both cases, they broke streaks of Bryant University, which had won the last 5 women’s titles and last 2 men’s titles before leaving for the America East.

There’s one new co-ed swimming & diving program in the conference this year: Le Moyne College in Syracuse, New York. Last year, in the Northeast 10 Conference, a geographically-similar group in NCAA Division II, the Le Moyne women finished 4th out of 8 teams and the men finished 3rd out of 7 teams. This is Le Moyne’s first season in NCAA D1 athletics.

The Dolphins are likely to be at the bottom of the conference in year one as they begin their transition, but they have a few individual athletes who will make some noise in the NEC already this season.

The conference is also one school lighter on the men’s and women’s side this season after St. Francis College* eliminated its athletics program. The women were 7th out of 9 teams last year and the men were 3rd out of 4 teams.

Not to be confused with St. Francis University, which is still in the conference and sponsors a women’s team.

The conference as a whole is improving – for example, at last year’s NEC Championship meet, there were five conference records broken in one session on night 3.

Men’s Preview

The top three at this year’s NEC Championship meet projects to be an absolute barn-burner of a finish thanks to an improved Wagner College team and the defending champions from Howard that are coming back to the field a little.

The Bisons’ best swimmer and NEC Swimmer of the Meet Miles Simon transferred to finish his career at Georgia as a grad student after going 7-for-7 in conference titles last year.

Howard does, however, return Jordan Walker, the NEC Diver of the Meet last year, who swept the springboard diving events in dominating fashion, including a Meet Record on 3-meter. There aren’t a ton of divers in the NEC, but Howard has two good ones – besides Walker, Cyrus Gibson, who also swam the 100 and 200 fly at last year’s conference championship meet, has improved this year too.

In the lanes, this year’s Howard sprint squad is led by Arion Solomon and Taj Benton. They are ranked #3 and #4 respectively in the 50 free, while Solomon is also ranked #3 in the 100 free and Benton is ranked #2 in the 100 fly in the NEC this season. Benton hit a season-best of 49.22 in the 100 fly mid-season.

But the cream-of-the-crop in the conference in the sprint freestyles this year are the men of LIU. Alejandro Pascual Del Cid (20.63/45.86), and Emilio Garcia (20.85/45.69) hold the top two spots in the 50 and 100 freestyles in some order this season. The two Spaniards were both faster at last year’s NEC Championships than they have been this season, and on paper are heavy favorites to rack up 74 points in those two races.

Not coincidentally, LIU has the fastest 200 and 400 free relays in the conference this season. In the 400 free relay, their 3:03.14 is three seconds ahead of their next-closest rivals Wagner College, though the 200 free relay is much closer – just a two-tenths of a second gap to Howard.

LIU also has a great breaststroke group, with Giannis Venetos leading 1-2-3 ranks in both the 100 and 200. He’s been 55.22/2:00.17, already both much faster than he was at last year’s NEC Championship meet. The defending champions Darin Johnson from Howard and Stephen Taylor from LIU are lurking further down the rankings, but Venetos’ times this season are already faster than either winning time from last season.

But interestingly, on paper, it’s Wagner, who finished last at last year’s championship (391 points behind Howard), that would score the most swimming points based on season-best times so far.

That’s thanks in part to a very good freshman class topped by Jasu Ovaskainen from Finland. He is the conference leader so far this season in the 100 fly (48.46) and 200 IM (1:49.71), and the second-ranked swimmer in the NEC in the 100 back (49.28).

In each of those races, the defending champions (all from Howard) graduated.

Wagner freshman Nikko Carillo leads the NEC in the 200 fly this season in 1:51.08, which would have won last year’s conference title.

But it’s not just newcomers. Some of the team’s returning swimmers are having great seasons as well. Sophomore Kaan Nalcaci from Turkey is the conference leader in the 100 and 200 backstrokes, including a mid-season 1:46.59 in the 200 that is four seconds clear of the rest of the conference and that is six-tenths faster than he was at last year’s NEC Championships. Another sophomore, Ruben Van Gool, leads the conference in the 500 (4:33.35) and 1650 (16:06.08) frees.

The team is deep in some areas (like the 400 IM, where they rank 2-3-4 in the conference this season), but it’s 7 NEC-leading times in 13 individual events, plus the best medley relays and 800 free relay in the conference, that sets them apart. In just a four team conference, wins can wind up making a big difference.

Le Moyne will be led in their introduction to the conference by freshman Justin Enser, who is ranked 5th in the NEC in the 100 free. That’s a three-tenths improvement on his previous best time from high school.

Races to Watch

Men’s 100 Yard Breaststroke – LIU has the top three seeds in the 100 breast lead by Giannis Venetos (55.22), but the defending 100 breast champion Darin Johnson is lurking in 6th in 56.58 and the 200 breast champion Stephen Taylor is 3rd at 56.15. Johnson’s 55.32 from last year’s meet would be a tenth slower than Venetos’ mid-season time. Taylor looks better in the 100 than he has since his freshman season in 2021, when he went 55.33 at NECs.

Men’s 200/400 Medley Relays – In a four team conference, to have three teams so tightly-grouped in these relays is super exciting, even if across the meet the impact of the relays is fairly neutral. In the 200 medley, LIU leads the league with a mid-season 1:29.79, Howard is just behind at 1:29.83, and Wagner is 3rd in 1:32.91. Don’t buy that time from Wagner though – it comes from a dual meet after a 1:30.28 from their mid-season invite was disqualified on an early departure from the freshman Ovaskainen. They’ll get that cleaned up and leave a giant battle in this race.

2023 Finals Standings

  1. Howard – 928
  2. LIU – 759
  3. St. Francis College – 634
  4. Wagner College – 539
  5. Le Moyne – N/A (NCAA D2)

2024 SwimSwam Predictions

In a meet this close, LIU’s lack of divers could be a difference-maker for them, especially when entering *any diver* who can legally complete the competition is worth at least 10 points.

While Wagner does have a lot of top seeds, and not as much room to grow, there are still opportunities for them to pick up points here-and-there (including the 200 medley relay).

But then there’s Howard. They graduated more than anyone, but they’re still in this battle mid-season, and they just drop big time at the end of the year.

Something to watch for Wagner: Ranger Gavino, who was good for 38 points at last year’s NEC Championships and who had a good mid-season meet, didn’t race against Binghamton. That could be enough to swing this meet.

  1. Howard
  2. Wagner
  3. LIU
  4. Le Moyne

Women’s Meet Preview

The women’s side of the NEC has nine programs, which leads to a whole different dynamic than the men’s. Still, on paper, this is a very competitive conference. Scoring out the best swimming times this season, Saint Francis leads with 571.5 points, Wagner is 2nd with 554.5 points, and LIU is 3rd with 537.5. Even Howard is within that range with 459 seeded points.

Most of the diving power in the conference is concentrated in two programs – Central Connecticut State and Sacred Heart combined for 7 of the 8 A-finalists at last year’s conference championship meet on 1-meter and 6 of 8 on 3-meter.

And the reality is that last year, divers were most of the difference in Central Connecticut State’s 58-point margin of victory. They outscored runners-up Wagner by 51 points between two diving events.

They had the swimmers to back up their deep diving program last year. That program had no seniors, but it did lose two grad students this season, including Katie Czulewicz (56 individual points), the conference champion in the 200 and 500 frees.

But while CCSU looks like they’re in a big deficit on paper, we can’t count them out either. Kelly Stotler, for example, is seeded to score 6.5 points at NECs right now. At last year’s NEC Championships, she scored 24. Plus they have two standout freshmen in Katrine O’Leary and Sophie Milhomens who each are good for at least 30 conference points.

In other words, throw another team squarely into the mix here in what’s shaping up as a five team race.

Among the top swimming programs in the conference, Wagner’s women, like their men, had a great mid-season meet. They are led in part by a couple of international freshman additions in Rebekka Luoto from Finland, who leads the conference in the 500 free (4:56.56), 100 breast (1:02.35), and 200 breast (2:16.51) and Rachael Harris (seeded 2nd in the 200 fly in 2:07.10). Aura Vilarrasa leads the league in the 200 back this season, improving three-tenths midseason from her NEC result.

The Howard women had the dominant 200 free relay in the conference last year. Their 400 free relay swam 1:32.63 to set the Meet Record and win by a second-and-a-half, out-swimming the sum of their parts.

They have the conference’s best 200 free relay again this season (1:32.97) from a dual meet against American U, and they might have some room to grow here. While the Howard women have the two best 50 freestylers in the conference this year in Zuzu Nwaeze (23.82) and Belle Fountain (23.99) – again, both from dual meets. Fountain was 4th at NECs last year in the individual 50 free (23.64) and split 23.01 on the relay.

So some of this relay looks lined up just right for the conference meet.

The member of that relay who has some work to do is last year’s leadoff Kelsey Roberson, who was 23.60 on the relay and 6th individually in 23.74.

So far this season she ranks just 16th in the conference with a 24.73 flat-start best.

LIU went 1-2 in last year’s 50 free at the NEC Championships more on that in a minute), but both of those swimmers are gone, meaning the Howard women should do some damage in the sprint events.

Also in the team mix is LIU, in spite of losing the reigning NEC Swimmer of the Meet Maaike Broersma to transfer. She started her college career at Lindsey Wilson College in Columbia where she was an NAIA National Champion. She transferred to LIU last year, but returned to Lindsey Wilson for her senior season of eligibility this year. They also lost Venna Anderson, who transferred to CSUB, who was 2nd behind Broersma in the 50 free at last year’s meet.

The Sharks are still led by a deep group at the top including Mariajose Lopez Lizarraga, the conference’s top miler (her mid-season 17:06 is 11 seconds better than she was last season) and Allie Bashor, at 56.52 the conference’s top 100 butterflier this season (she missed the spring semester last season but was 3rd at NECs in 2022).

That mile is where CCSU made hay at last year’s championship meet. They finished 1-2 with Abbey Keane (17:00.19) and Taylor Demarest (17:11.49) both returning this season. Demarest hasn’t swum the event this season, but if she does at NECs and her skill hasn’t decayed (she’s still racing the 1000 a lot) that’s a big opportunity for them to pick up on seed.

It’s Saint Francis, though, that has made the biggest strides this year. Sara Turner leads the league in the 200 fly (2:06.18) and 400 IM (4:28.87). While neither time is as fast as she was last season, both times are much faster than she was mid-season last year. Nicole Lopez Kohlmann is also having a great year, ranking 2nd in the NEC in the 200 IM (2:05.76) and 200 breast (2:21.18) and swimming lifetime bests in the 200 IM and the 200 free (1:54.13) mid-season.

Sacred Heart scored more diving points than anyone else in the conference – 123 – last season, including 3 meter champion Olivia McNicholas. That was roughly one-third of their total points.

This year, though, the swimming portion of their program looks better. That includes the addition of freshman Sophia Velleco, younger sister of team member Olivia Velleco, who ranks 2nd in the league in the 200 free (1:52.93) this season. They probably still aren’t title contenders, but they should be tighter to the winner in a more balanced league this season.

Other team leaders include backstroker Sydney Stockwell for Stonehill College (57.15 – 100 back); distance swimmer Neva Sa for Merrimack College (5:05.52 – 500 free); and breaststroke Madeleine O’Dea for Le Moyne (1:06.41 – 100 breast).

Races to Watch:

Women’s 400 IM – The defending champion of the 400 IM Maile Mora from Wagner graduated, but she was just the tip of the spear for what was one of the more competitive 400 IMs you’ll see at a conference championship meet. The runner-up Nicole Lopez Kohlmann from St. Francis (4:26.84), 3rd place finisher Bree Anderson from Wagner (4:27.52), 4th-place finisher from St. Francis (4:27.90), and a total of six of eight A-finalists from last year’s meet are all back in 2024.

That group has been all over the place this year with their times, but the current season leader is Turner at 4:28.87. Last season she dropped just over three seconds from mid-season to conference.

Women’s 200 Breast – Howard’s Michaela Spears is back as the defending champion in the 200 breaststroke – but her season best is just a 2:25.26 from October (Howard didn’t have a mid-season invite). Meanwhile, Wagner’s standout freshman Rebekka Luoto has already been 2:16.51. If Howard’s taper strategy works out, that should be a fun matchup to watch.

2024 Final Standings

  1. Central Connecticut State – 659.5
  2. Wagner – 601.5
  3. LIU – 520.5
  4. Saint Francis University – 392.5
  5. Sacred Heart – 477
  6. St. Francis College – 285
  7. Merrimack College – 139
  8. Stonehill College – 120
  9. Le Moyne – N/A (NCAA D2)

2024 SwimSwam Picks

This is going to be the hardest pick I think I have to make during the 2024 college conference season. Not only because it’s a very competitive conference, but because the teams are all over the place with their mid-season meets and there are so many high-impact freshmen.

If LIU had their two outbound transfers still, I think they’d be clear favorites. But even after those two losses, they’re still in the conversation.

One thing I feel pretty good about: Howard seems like they have the most room to improve from where they are now. But if the strategy misses, the Bison could be in trouble.

So here’s the shot in the dark:

  1. Wagner
  2. Howard
  3. Central Connecticut State
  4. Saint Francis University
  5. LIU
  6. Sacred Heart
  7. Stonehill
  8. Merrimack
  9. Le Moyne

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2 months ago

Spicy 😤😤😤

About Braden Keith

Braden Keith

Braden Keith is the Editor-in-Chief and a co-founder/co-owner of SwimSwam.com. He first got his feet wet by building The Swimmers' Circle beginning in January 2010, and now comes to SwimSwam to use that experience and help build a new leader in the sport of swimming. Aside from his life on the InterWet, …

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