Long-time Division III swimming powerhouse Kenyon College has been losing ground to rivals Denison and Emory over the past several years, and this year at the North Coast Athletic Conference (NCAC) Championships, Kenyon was again bested by in-state rival Denison University.
Though Keyon is still incredible in top-level talent and depth, other Division III teams such as Denison have made up the deficit that once put them head-and-shoulders above the competition. Kenyon might have won the previous 37 NCAA Division III National Championships on the men’s side were it not for Denison spoiling their streak with victories in 2011 and 2012, and again last year in 2016.
The Denison men got off to a great start on the first night of competition with a new NCAC record in the 800 freestyle relay. The team of Stuart Hohm, Max Howes, Walt Dauksher, and Ryan Stevenson claimed the relay title with a time of 6:34.29, beating Keyon by over 4 seconds. Hohm went on to place third in the 500 the following day with a 4:31.51, getting beaten out by teammate Connor Rumpit who claimed the title in a 4:29.17, and by Kenyon’s David Perez who placed second in a 4:30.56.
On the women’s side, Kenyon claimed the victory in the 800 free relay by a margin of just over three seconds. The team of Julia Green, Kendall Vanderhoof, Sophia Kuvan, and Marysol Arce nabbed a B cut time with their 7:27.95. The teams from Denison and DePauw, placing second and third, respectively, also slipped under the Division III B cut. Arce followed up her relay title with a victory in the 500 the following day, touching in a 4:51472, ahead of Campbell Costly of Denison (4:53.30) and Angela Newlon of DePauw (4:54.31). Overall, six of the eight women in the final of the 500 achieved B cut times.
The women’s 200 freestyle relay title went to Denison (Gabriella Nutter, Carolyn Kane, Casey Kirby, and KT Kustritz), who mustered a 1:34.47 to win by nearly a full second over Kenyon. The fastest split in the field went to Denison senior Carolyn Kane who threw down a 23.00 to pull her team ahead halfway through the race. Denison also took the 200 free relay title on the men’s side, where the squad of Max Howes, Eric Gerlach, Jason Wesseling, and Zach Wagner put together a 1:21.40 to best Kenyon by nearly an entire second. The fastest split of the race went to Denion’s Wagner who anchored with a 19.86, the only sub-20 in the field.
Fresh off the victory in the relay, Kustritz went on to win the women’s 200 IM with a B cut time of 2:04.31. The men’s 200 IM title went to Denison’s Jack Lindell, who posted a 1:49.83. Lindell was the 2016 NCAA champion in the 200 IM, 400 IM, and 200 backstroke. Lindell also held the NCAA Division III record in the 200 IM until it was lowered earlier this season by Emory’s Andrew Wilson, who had owned the record himself before Lindell broke it while Wilson was training for Olympic Trials at Texas. While Wilson will still be favored for the 200 IM title at the upcoming NCAA Championships, Lindell will certainly make it interesting and challenge Wilson, and if he gets too far ahead at the 100 yard mark, he could be tough to catch. The session closed with the 400 medley relays, both of which were won by Denison with Kenyon taking second each time.
Friday saw victories for Denison in the men’s 200 medley relay (1:30.14), 400 IM (Lindell, 3:56.35), 100 fly (Kenny Fox, 49.42), 200 free (Dauksher, 1:39.45), 100 breast (Foster-Smith, 55.62), and 100 back (Wesseling, 49.20), completing a sweep of the men’s races. The women from Denison also took the title in the 200 medley relay with a time of 1:43.16), and were all but perfect with individual event victories, save for the 400 IM which went to Angela Newlon of DePauw with a 4:26.27. Denison also achieved a major point swing from the women’s 1 meter dive, where Denison placed 1-2-3-4. Other victories included the 100 back (Casey Kirby, 56.67), 100 breast (Kustritz, 1:02.86), 200 free (Kuvan, 1:51.17), and 100 fly (Kane, 55.63).
Saturday was an interesting day of competition, if for no other reason than the opportunity to watch some of the best swimmers in Division III race the 100 IM. Denison freshman Bebe Wang was victorious in the 100 IM with his time of 51.56, while his teammate and 100 breast champion KT Kustritz took the 100 IM title for the women in a time of 57.81, lowering the pool, NCAC, and Division III records in the event. Denison’s Jason Wesseling upset teammate and defending Division III champion Jack Lindell to win the men’s 200 backstroke, out-touching him in 1:48.32 to 1:48.68. Before Wesseling and Lindell fought it out for the NCAC title, Denison’s Hannah Rusinko and Erica Hsu, both freshman, also went 1-2 in the women’s 200 back, with Rusinko getting the better of Hsu by a about a second to touch in a 2:02.72 to Hsu’s 2:03.73, both of which are B cut times. The final record of the night came from Halli Garza of Denison who won the women’s 200 fly with a 2:01.81, which lowered her own pool record and clenched her the victory by nearly five seconds.
Final team scores are as follows:
1. Denison University 1988 2. Kenyon College 1769 3. DePauw University 1108 4. College of Wooster 1064 5. Oberlin College 824 6. Allegheny College 758 7. Wittenberg 670 8. Ohio Wesleyan University 652 9. Hiram College 313
1. Denison University 1953 2. Kenyon College 1750 3. DePauw University 1141.5 4. College of Wooster 998 5. Wabash College 996 6. Allegheny College 711.5 7. Ohio Wesleyan University 652 8. Oberlin College 477 9. Wittenberg 463 10. Hiram College 210