With the Christmas break over and teams beginning to filter back to whence they came, it’s time to take a look at what the second semester may have in store for the division.
Using a little guesswork, a little historical research and a lot of math, this is the compiled list of what we might be looking at come the fourth day of NCAAs.
Women’s Top 25
- RIT (2 – 46th)
Returning for Rochester Institute of Technology this year is Sam Huselstein who scored 15th on 3 meter last year at NCAAs and was just outside scoring position in the 1 meter event.
- WPI (3 – 45th)
Worcester Polytech Institute’s Veronica Nikolaki scored all three of WPI’s points at last year’s NCAA meet. This year, she has a chance to move up in the standings, with seven seniors ahead of her having graduated from 1 meter and eight on 3 meter.
- SUNY Geneseo (29 – 22nd)
The Blue Wave will feature Abigail Max in her senior year, with the potential to score top 16 in several events. She is currently ranked as the 11th fastest 500 freestyler after midseason, and is right on the cusp of top 16 with her 200 freestyle and 100 backstroke. She won the consolation final of the women’s 500 back last year with a time that would have been good for 7th in the A final.
- SUNY Cortland (4 – 44th)
Junior Miranda Fergus was 13th for the Red Dragons to earn the team’s entire point total in 1 meter diving last year. She was just outside the top 16 in the 3 meter competition and with the graduation of eight total seniors in that event, will have an opportunity to make up even more points.
- Middlebury (44 – 18th)
Along with the other NESCAC schools, Middlebury doesn’t have a typical December invitational, and relies primarily on the conference meet (and the Middlebury Invite the weekend before) to get cuts for the NCAA meet. They get most of their power through their relays, and in 2014 only one athlete scored individually: Jamie Hillas, who will be a senior this year. Look for her in the 200 breaststroke where she took 16th last year.
- Grove City (23 – 27th)
Junior Megan Bilko was top 16 twice times last year individually (500 free, 400 IM) and will be looking to bring her relay teams with her to do some serious racing at the 2015 NCAA meet.
- Hope (24 – 26th)
Junior Sarah Sheridan will represent Hope on the diving boards. Sheridan was top 8 on 1 meter and 3 meter last year. With the graduation of four seniors in front of her from last year’s placing, she will make a run at moving up in placing.
- Rochester (31 – 20th)
As just a freshman last year, Danielle Neu scored on the diving boards for Rochester. As a sophomore this year, she’ll be looking to do more than just squeak into consols. Lauren Bailey was a top 16 contender in the 100 and 200 butterfly events last year and will be looking to come back and improve on her placing.
- Bates (49 – 17th)
Yearmates and sophomores Julia Smachlo and Sara Daher will be the ones to watch from Bates this year. Smachlo was top 16 last year in both the 500 and mile while Daher took top 8 in both the 200 IM and 400 IM as well as top 16 in the 200 backstroke. Both of them also served as key legs on Bates’ relays.
- Luther (74 – 14th)
Junior Clare Slagel returns for Luther. She is ranked 5th in the 200 backstroke, and 9th in the 100 backstroke. She was instrumental on the medley relays for Luther last year, though Luther doesn’t have any top 16 relays currently going into the spring.
- Trinity U (27 – 24th)
Trinity junior Ashley Heline made the consolation finals of 1 meter at last year’s NCAAs and put up a score in the consolations of 3 meter that would have earned her 8th place in the A final. With another year ahead of her, she has a shot at moving up. Also keep an eye out for senior Lydia Jones who is just outside a top 16 rank in the 50 freestyle, and might have an opportunity to move up in the 100 as well.
- DePauw (62 – 15th)
Does the name Angela Newlon ring a bell? The freshman standout last year had the fastest time going into the NCAA meet, but ended up ninth with a time in finals that would have gotten her a 7th place spot in the A final. (Repeating her incoming time to NCAAs would have earned her a top 3 finish.) As a sophomore this year, Newlon may have the savvy to know how to go when it really counts…and may even give the reigning champion a run for the crown. Emily Weber, a senior may also provide some guidance and distance work: she’s top 16 in the mile.
- Gustavus (154 – 7th)
The Gusties were on fire last year, and put up some of the best performances to earn a school high placement. They lost quite a handful of important seniors to graduation and have picked up a freshman who might help recoup from their losses. Freshman Kate Reilly is ranked top 16 in the 50 freestyle. She joins returning breaststroke senior Jenny Strom who is ranked third in the 100 breast and 9th in the 200 breast.
- UW-Whitewater (27 – 24th)
Amy Spaay enters her final year at Whitewater and will have an opportunity to compete for the Warhawks in breaststroke at her final time around the big meet in Texas. Currently the Warhawks have a top 8 400 Medley Relay, and with the NCAA record holder in their corner (and in her final year!) big things may be in store for this little Wisconsin team. Joining Spaay on the blocks will be freshman Michaela Matthys, ranked top 16 in the 100 butterfly.
- Chicago (122 – 10th)
The Maroons stole onto the scene last year and made everyone pay attention. They haven’t lost any firepower to graduation, but they have only one relay in contention for a top 16 spot at this year’s NCAA meet (200 medley). The highest ranked swimmer after midseason for the Maroons is freshman Melissa Bischoff with a top 8 spot in the 100 back. Another top freshman to keep an eye on is Khia Kurtenbach who is currently top 16 in the 200 backstroke. With more endurance power than sprinters, it’ll be interesting to see how the Maroons show up this year.
- Wheaton IL (93 – 12th)
Wheaton has been grabbing attention every year with the one athlete you just can’t ignore: junior powerhouse Kirstin Nitz. What is perhaps most fun about Nitz is guessing what event she’ll dominate next. (Currently she’s ranked first in the 200 butterfly, putting paid to the notion that she’s ‘just’ a sprint girl.) Bolstered by Nitz’ speed, Wheaton also has three relays with potential to take home top 16 points. In addition to Nitz, keep an eye out for sophomore Erin Bagley who could take some top 16 points of her own in the breaststrokes and 200 IM.
- NYU (22 – 28th)
All five of NYU’s relays have top 8 potential at the NCAA meet this year. Their most powerful relay might be the 200 medley, sitting sixth after December. None of NYU’s points from last year have graduated, and if their relays show up, they might find themselves breaking into DIII’s top ten. NYU’s most dangerous swimmer will be senior Emily Doerner who is currently ranked in the top eight in both the 100 back and 100 butterfly events, and already two seconds faster than she was in the back at NCAAs last year.
- Amherst (185 – 6th)
Amherst is another of those funny little colleges that doesn’t tend to show up until the big day. They clearly have talented athletes, and they lost less than a quarter of their points to senior graduation after last year (many with diver Linsmayer), but after midseason, they still don’t have anyone besides junior Sarah Conklin showing up on a top 30 search. (And so far, Conklin doesn’t have the B cut in her 100 butterfly either.) Still, when the time comes to go, Amherst goes, so they earn a top ten spot.
- Wash U (134 – 8th)
Relays and some highly placed athletes after midseason lead to this particular prediction. Juniors Amanda Stadermann and Kristalyn McAfee both have the potential to do some real damage at the big meet, score some points and maybe pull some serious stunts on relays. Stadermann comes into the meet as the sixth fastest 200 flyer in the division with McAfee ranked seventh in the 200 freestyle. A third top eight ranked teammate is Sophie Gan, another junior with an eight place rank in the 200 breast after midseason.
- MIT (123.5 – 9th)
The Lady Engineers lost only 8.5 points from the NCAA meet last year to graduation, and have five relays all in the top eight after midseason. It looks like the strongest relays for them will be the 200 free and 800 free relays – both of which they are set at third after midseason. MIT also has four freshmen who are currently in the top sixteen in their events and could make some headway at NCAAs. For this team, keep an eye on the extremely versatile sophomore, Veronika Jedryka. (She’s ranked top 6 in four individual events, including an overall top ranking in the 200 back by almost two seconds.) Freshman Mary Thielking may also break into the top 16 in her individual events – she’s ranked just outside in the mile and 400 IM.
- Williams (272 – 5th)
As always, Williams’ ranking at the DIII NCAA Champs is built on its studs. They lost 30 points (well under a quarter) of their points to graduation, and still have some top quality athletes looking to make a berth on the NCAA roster this year. What makes it harder to place Williams is that they don’t have a midseason meet the way many of the other schools in the division do – to rest and kick butt. Instead, Williams, like a bunch of secret agents – more or less conceals its talent until the moment is right to strike: at NCAAs. The names we know to keep an eye on are of course, senior distance phenom Sarah Thompson (mile, 500 free, 200 free). Another likely candidate for some serious success comes with sophomore Megan Pierce who made a berth on the NCAA team for the Ephs as a freshman.
- Johns Hopkins (387 – 3rd)
With a program-best finish last year, Johns Hopkins earned the attention of, well…everyone. The Jays were a perfect 5-for-5 in relays, and one of the starts of last year’s show – Anastasia Bogandovski – is back, and clearly in top form. Bogdanovski earned Female Swimmer of the Meet in 2014 and if her season thus far is any indication, she’s ready to rock and roll again. Bogdanovski is ranked number one in all three of her events (50, 100 and 200 freestyle) by a lot. If nothing else, tune in simply to watch this one put on a show. JHU shows up in fourth for this year’s prediction for two reasons: first, they graduated the second biggest number of senior points (after Emory), and some key relay members which led to that perfect relay streak. Second, about half the possible meet qualifiers on JHU’s roster are freshman, which sometimes doesn’t mean anything…but sometimes means a lot. First timers are hard to predict at the big meet, and the hype about, say, Anna Wisniewski’s top ranked 200 IM or second ranked 100 butterfly might come to naught. That being said, keep an eye on Wisniewski. And the entirety of JHU.
- Denison (374.5 – 4th)
Out of the top four, Big Red lost the fewest points to graduating seniors from last year to this year. They’ve also got a number of very strong relays that will come in useful at the end of the year. The Big Red has two of the strongest distance athletes in the division in junior Taylor Johns (currently top ranked in the mile, second in the 500) and sophomore Campbell Costley (top ranked in the 500, third in the mile). On the sprint side of things, sophomore Carolyn Kane holds down the fort with three top three rankings (50 free, 100 free, 100 fly). With only three freshmen in the top 30 after midseason, there’s not a lot left to chance. (But keep an eye on 200 flyer Halli Garza: she may have something special tucked up her sleeve.)
- Kenyon (456.5 – 2nd)
The Ladies were second last year, brought into play by a huge number of freshman and first year NCAA qualifiers. With a bit more experience and many returning faces, the Kenyon team comes prepared to put up a fight. The familiar names to watch are Ladies like juniors Katie Kaestner (breaststroke/IM) and Mariah Willaimson (distance freestyle/fly). One of the wild cards this year might be freshman Kanchi Desai whose top event after midseason is the 200 butterfly, sitting in second with a time that, many other years, may have seen her at the top of the list. The Ladies have a number of strong qualifying prospects and will look to add more to the roster after conference. Also, diver Maria Zarka who was first on 3 meter and runner up on 1 meter will be back, and with her competition graduated…she may be a dual national champ this year.
- Emory (595.5 – 1st)
First last year, and for the past five years running, it’s no surprise that the Eagles are the top choice for the winners on the women’s side in DIII. Last year Emory sported only one individual champion – Elizabeth Aronoff – but made off with hundreds of points with the sheer numbers of talented athletes making it back in nearly every event contested. One name to watch this year at the big meet is of course, Aronoff as the 200 breaststroke defending champion. Others include sophomore Claire Liu who has the top ranked 100 back time in the division after midseason, and senior Nancy Larson with three top 8 rankings – two of which are actually the second fastest times in the division. Even before conference time, it looks like Emory will easily qualify more than 18 women this year; the real strategy may come into play based on who gets picked to go to Texas.