Division III national championships are nothing new for Denison University’s swimming and diving program, but they don’t typically come with a trip to the White House.
The Big Red will get their moment in the spotlight next week when the reigning D-III champion women’s team travels to Washington, D.C. for a College Athlete Day recognition ceremony featuring a wide variety of national champs from all three NCAA divisions.
The Denison women’s swimming and diving squad will be the first team in school history to be honored at the White House, which has hosted the tradition since 1865.
Invites have often been limited to Division I basketball and football teams, but Denison athletic director Nan Carney-DeBord said she thinks the hiring of new NCAA president Charlie Baker played a part in the White House expanding access to Division II and Division III champions. Baker’s oldest son, Charles, played football for the Big Red about a decade ago.
“To be invited to the White House is truly an honor,” Carney-DeBord said. “And our women’s team is definitely worthy of the honor.”
Denison head coach Gregg Parini will be making his first White House trip with a team following his seventh national championship with the Big Red. He has won two titles with the women (2001, 2023) and five with the men (2011, 2012, 2016, 2018, 2019) since taking over both programs back in 1987.
“It’s a pretty cool opportunity for us to be recognized at this level, and it’s a chance to bring the university some additional exposure and recognition,” Parini said.
All 18 Denison swimmers who competed at the NCAA Championships this March in Greensboro, North Carolina, are expected to attend the event. That includes co-captain Tara Culibrk, who is transferring to Division I University of Pittsburgh next season for her fifth year.
“This event happening left us all in shock,” said Culibrk, who collected top-three finishes in the 50 free (22.81), 100 free (49.88), and 200 free (1:49.03) at the NCAA Division III Championships in March. “We have zero expectations, but one thing is for sure — we are very excited to represent our Denison team as a united front along with our coaches.”
It’s been 34 years since a North Coast Conference national champion in any sport visited the White House.
“This is a unique and well-deserved opportunity for our athletes and coaches,” Denison president Adam Weinberg said. “Our athletes and coaches represent the very best of collegiate athletics. In particular, I am thrilled and grateful for the leadership of coach Gregg Parini, who has delivered seven national titles to Denison. Gregg is an outstanding coach, educator, and mentor.”