Wagner Men Hold Off Howard for First NEC Title, CCSU Defends Women’s Crown

2024 NORTHEAST CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIPS

In only its third season of existence, the Wagner men’s swimming and diving team held off defending champion Howard to capture its first Northeast Conference (NEC) title on Saturday night.

The Seahawks won three individual events during the last finals session to finish with 884.5 total points, 51 more than the runner-up Bison (833.5).

With Wagner leading by just 13.5 points heading into the final day of competition, sophomore Ruben Van Gool gave the Seahawks an early lift with a 1650 freestyle victory in 15:51.39. The Spanish distance specialist knocked almost four seconds off his winning time from last year. Van Gool was the only swimmer to break the 16-minute barrier as Howard’s Luke-Kennedy Thompson (16:09.20) and Wagner’s Brayden Schaeffer (16:34.21) rounded out the podium in the mile.

Wagner kept its momentum rolling with a 1-2 finish in the 200 back thanks to reigning NEC Rookie of the Meet winner Kaan Nalcaci (1:46.25) and freshman Nikkolai Carrillo (1:47.44). Nalcaci, a Turkish native, shaved a few tenths off his previous best (1:46.59) from November.

Long Island University (LIU) sophomore Emilio Garcia snapped the Seahawks’ winning streak with a 1st-place finish in the 100 free (45.09). He has been as fast as 44.79 leading off the Sharks’ 400 free relay at last year’s NEC Championships, where he placed 2nd in the 200 free (1:38.95) and 5th in the 50 free (20.63) as a freshman. Howard’s Mason Green (45.51) and Arion Solomon (45.60) took 2nd and 3rd, respectively, behind Garcia.

The Bison still had hope for a late comeback until the final individual event, the 200 breaststroke, where freshman Adrian Andres Moreno triumphed in 1:59.54. The Spaniard dropped almost four seconds off his previous-best 2:03.25 from prelims. Howard put three swimmers into the A-final (Darin Johnson, Mark-Anthony Thompson, and Niles Rankin), but their 6-8 finishes weren’t enough to keep the Bison in contention heading into the 400 free relay. They trailed by 45 points, meaning Wagner could get DQ’ed and still cruise to the men’s team title (relay 1st-place finishes are worth 40 points on the men’s side).

The Seahawks put the finishing touches on their victory with a 1st-place finish in the 400 free relay (3:00.73), about a second ahead of Howard (3:01.99). Wagner freshman Jasu Ovaskainen led off in 44.81, taking more than a second off his previous-best 45.99 from November. Ovaskainen earned Outstanding Swimmer of the Meet honors for earning wins in the 200 IM (1:48.11), 100 back (48.27), and 100 fly (46.92), all in lifetime bests.

Howard’s Jordan Walker won the 3-meter diving final on Friday while also placing 2nd on the 1-meter earlier in the meet to bring home Outstanding Diver of the Meet honors.

Men’s Team Scores

  1. Wagner – 884.5
  2. Howard – 833.5
  3. Long Island – 614
  4. Le Moyne – 426

Women’s Recap

The Central Connecticut State (CCSU) women made history with their 316.5-point margin of victory over Howard — the largest in NEC history — en route to their second conference crown in a row on Saturday.

The biggest blowout previously was a 300-point win by UMBC way back in 2003.

The Blue Devils got off to a hot start during the last finals session as senior Abbey Keane clocked a winning time of 16:55.40 in the 1650 free. She was almost five seconds faster than her NEC title victory from last year (17:00.19), but still about a second off her lifetime best from last March (16:54.17).

Despite CCSU’s lopsided team victory overall, it was actually 3rd-place Wagner who dominated the rest of Saturday’s finals session.

Wagner sophomore Aura Vilarrasa outdueled a pair of Blue Devils in the 200 back to come away with the win in 1:59.74. It was the Spaniard’s first time under the two-minute mark, lowering her previous-best 2:00.82 from November. CCSU’s Sophie Milhomens (2:00.91) and Megan Dunnigan (2:01.13) were only about a second behind to round out the podium.

Wagner fifth-year Olivia Bishop defended her 100 free title with a time of 50.61, just a tenth off her lifetime best from last year’s prelims. She ended up triumphing in 2023 with a time of 50.78.

Finnish freshman Rebekka Luoto kept the momentum rolling for the Seahawks, blasting a personal-best 2:15.82 to take the 200 breast title handily. She sliced almost a second off her lifetime best, reaching the wall more than four seconds ahead of Howard’s Zaylie-Elizabeth Thompson (2:19.94). Luoto earned Co-Oustanding Swimmer of the Meet honors along with Howard’s Zuzu Nwaeze (wins in 50 free and 200 free, two conference records on relay legs) for also triumphing in the 100 breast (1:00.26, an NCAA ‘B’ cut) and earning a runner-up finish in the 500 free (personal-best 4:55.47).

Right after her 200 breast win, Luoto returned to the pool for the 400 free relay, where she led off Wagner’s quartet with a personal-best 51.03 to power them to victory in a new NEC record of 3:22.96. Aura Vilarrasa (50.83), Allie D’Allegro (51.66), and Olivia Bishop (49.44) joined Luoto on the record-breaking 400 free relay.

Sacred Heart’s Lola Barrett earned Outstanding Diver of the Meet honors for sweeping 1-meter and 3-meter events, the latter with a new NEC record of 295.70 points.

Women’s Team Scores

  1. CCSU – 1,473.5
  2. Howard – 1,157
  3. Wagner – 1,098.5
  4. Saint Francis – 1,094.5
  5. Sacred Heart – 985
  6. Long Island – 799
  7. Stonehill – 383.5
  8. Merrimack – 312
  9. Le Moyne – 261

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Mr. Regret
1 month ago

All the praise to Coach Colin. I was recruited there 3 years ago and didn’t believe in his vision. He’s been able to build an amazing program and know they have a bright future ahead!

About Riley Overend

Riley is an associate editor interested in the stories taking place outside of the pool just as much as the drama between the lane lines. A 2019 graduate of Boston College, he arrived at SwimSwam in April of 2022 after three years as a sports reporter and sports editor at newspapers …

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