In many ways, Division II and Division III represent vastly different NCAA kingdoms. Division II has athletic scholarships, Division III does not. Looking at swimming specifically, it’s hard to define which Division is “faster”. While Division III is typically deeper than Division II, partly owing to how many schools it encompasses, Division II often has better times at the top.
This is all to say it’s incredibly exciting when two top tier programs from each Division square off. That very scenario happened this past weekend, at a meet hosted by the University of West Florida. Delta State University, who finished 9th (Women’s) and 11th (Men’s) at the NCAA Division II meet last year, took on Emory University, who were 1st and 4th.
In the end it was the national champion Eagle women who won the women’s competition 178-120, while the Statesmen took the men’s meet 157-137.
Emory’s Women’s Swimming and Diving team has ripped off six straight NCAA championships under coach Jon Howell. Part of their recipe for success has been their willingness to take on tough opponents during the regular season. This season, for example, they have two Division I major conference teams on their schedule, as well as another high level Division II team.
As is typical with this squad, there was no one performer that dominated the precedings and led them to victory. Instead they got wins from across their roster and filled in a lot of crucial 2nd-5th places to seize the day. Cindy Cheng was one of two Emory swimmers to beat all swimmers from both West Florida and Delta State. She won the 200 free.
The other outright winner was Julia Wawer in the 500 freestyle. Diving was also crucial in the victory for Emory, as Mara Rosenstock led the way on both boards against DSU.
Both relays were hard fought between the two teams, with just .08 and .09 separating the 200 Medley (Delta State) and 200 freestyle (Emory) victors.
Both the Statesmen and the Eagles traded blows back and forth all afternoon. When the dust settled, the Delta State men had won the battle with nine first place finishes to Emory’s seven.
Statesman Adam Charlton was decisive with his sweep of both the 100 and 200 butterfly. The freshman from Durham, England could be a bigtime scorer for Delta State come the end of the year. Max Pendall also took two, touching first in both the 100 and 200 breaststroke.
Much as the women’s meet, the relays were hard fought. Delta State won the 200 Medley Relay, leading all the way and holding off Emory’s Ollie Smith, who split 19.9 on the anchor leg. In the 200 freestyle relay, Smith would get his revenge after he quickly erased a Statesmen lead to thunder home in a similar split.
Ultimately, Emory could not overcome the deficit created by diving. Delta State was able to put a full lineup of divers forth where Emory had none. That meant they started the meet in a 32 point hole.