The buildup has been coming all week long, and on Thursday, we saw history at the Conroe ISD Natatorium pool just north of Houston, Texas.
Williams College’s Caroline Wilson won the women’s 400 IM in 4:14.27, crushing any question about a challenger (though Denison’s Michelle Howell was a very good 4:18.95 for 2nd). That was her 4th straight title in this meet, her third individual event victory of the meet, and will cap her career in individual swims with 11 National Championships in 12 swims.
She joined Kenyon’s Patricia Abt, who swam from 1984-1987, and former Williams teammate Logan Todhunter, who swam from 2009-2012, as the most individual event titles in NCAA History. Todhunter won the last three 200 IM titles, which is why Wilson never went after that race until this season.
Altogether, she has pushed Williams to 94 all-time event titles: second most only to Kenyon, who ended the day with 227 total event championships.
Wilson isn’t alone in that push for the Ephs at this meet; they got a second win on the evening from Sarah Thompson in the women’s 200 freestyle. She lagged on the first 100 yards of that race, but then blew away the field coming home, splitting 54.8 on her back-half to win in 1:48.50. That included almost a full second ahead of Emory runner-up Anna Dobben (1:48.64) on the last 50 yards. Anastasia Bogdanovski was 3rd in 1:48.88.
The team story for the day was the Emory women, who not only held, but actually extended their lead. That started with a semi-surprising 1:32.93 victory over Kenyon (1:33.02). The Eagles got 22.7 splits both from Nancy Larson and Anna Dobben.
Denison took 3rd in that relay in 1:33.13. This was a great finish, as the top four teams (along with Johns Hopkins in 1:33.41) were within two-tenths of a second of each other at the final exchange.
Emory also went 3-4-5 in the 400 IM, led by Michelle York’s 4:22.67.
Emory also got a few points of swing when Wheaton freshman Kirsten Nitz won the 100 fly in 53.08. That’s a full second faster than she was in prelims, and it pushed her ahead of this morning’s fastest swimmer Hannah Saiz. Saiz dropped time from prelims to swim 53.20, but even a good closing 50 couldn’t overtake the freshman.
The Kenyon women built momentum, however, going into the third and fourth days of competition. First with Saiz’s win, and then with the meet-closing 400 medley relay, where they won in 3:40.13. That annihilated the old National Record by two seconds (set by Williams last year).
After being challenged by Johns Hopkins in prelims, Kenyon made a few tweaks to their relay, and with only one senior (Saiz), they took a four second margin of victory. Emory was 3rd in 3:44.49.
The men’s meet was highlighted by history of a different nature. In the first individual swim of the night, Alex Anderson from Mary Washington swam a 3:50.55 to break the old National Record in the 400 IM. The old record of 3:51.45 was held by Washington University’s Alex Beyer from 2009.
Anderson was better in every phase of his race from prelims to finals, but especially on the front-half. That’s where he built a two-second lead over Denison’s Al Weik, who is a great closer in this race. Weik was 2nd in 3:51.98, and the two will get to battle this one out again next season.
Kenyon, even though they came into day 2 with a lead, weren’t comfortable with the margin ahead of Denison, who swims well at the back end of this four-day affair. Things went very well for the Lords on this day, and Weik getting tipped off of that win was only part of the story.
Kenyon won the 200 free relay first in 1:18.96, including a 19.57 split from Curtis Ramsey on the 3rd leg and a 19.24 anchor from junior Ian Richardson. MIT, even with a 19.15 from individual 50 free champion Wyatt Ubellacker, could only get 2nd in 1:19.74, while Denison had to settle for winning the B Final.
Kenyon closed the session with a win in the 400 medley relay as well, including a 43.14 anchor from Ian Stewart-Barnes, in 3:15.39. Johns Hopkins was 2nd in that race in 3:15.72, and though Denison was faster in finals than prelims, they just earned 4th-place points.
MIT was 3rd in that relay with another great Ubellacker swim, splitting 46.90 on his third swim of the session.
Ubellacker is making a strong case for Swimmer of the Year honors; in addition to two great relay swims, he added a second individual victory of the meet with a 47.41 in the 100 fly. That was a bit slower than his prelims time (47.34), but was a second result under the old National Record.
Kenyon, though, took 2nd in the form of senior James Chapman, who was a 48.23 to beat out a tightly-packed final (Connecticut College’s Sam Gill was 3rd in 48.31) that could’ve easily seen him slid down to 7th or 8th.
And finally, to their two relay victories, Kenyon added one individual win: sophomore Austin Caldwell with a 1:37.01 in the 200 freestyle. He took this race out hard and ended up winning by a fairly comfortable margin. That’s just .03 away from a decade-old National Record; MIT’s Remy Mock was 2nd in 1:37.85.
It’s just a few points here-and-there, but the Kenyon men are doing a lot of things right at this meet to get this title back after two-straight Denison wins.
Denison, though, can do a lot to cut into this 58 point lead on Friday, though. If they can earn a “push” in the 200 fly, they’ve got a good chance to win both the 100 back and the 100 breast, and are the top seed in the 800 free relay. Expect this lead to sit somewhere around 40 points after all is said-and-done tomorrow. Denison has two divers entered in the 3-meter, whereas Kenyon has none, so when those go on Saturday, count on the lead to shrink even further.
Day 2 finals results available here.
Scores after day 2 available here.