Williams coach Steve Kuster took a gamble this year. With his senior Caroline Wilson, the best swimming in the division, on the precipice of history, the two decided to make a switch. Wilson came into the meet with 8 out of a possible 9 individual national titles, and a clean sweep of her swims this season would have given her 11 – tied for the all-time record among Division III women.
This morning, we were shocked to discover that Wilson had dropped the mile, an event in which she was three-for-three in her career at this meet, in favor of the 200 IM, an event that she’s never attempted at this meet.
Not only that, but this would leave her with six day 1 swims, including a back-to-back in the 500 free and the 200 IM.
So far, that played out masterfully for her, as she handled the double perfectly and saved herself 1,450 yards of racing. In the first final of this year’s meet, Wilson won the 500 free in 4:47.16. That is far from a career best for her, but she expended just enough energy to get the victory ahead of sophomore teammate Sarah Thompson, who was 2nd in 4:47.99.
Third place in the race went to Denison’s Alyssa Swanson. She had a tough junior season in 2012, where she finished only 11th in this race, but appears to be having a bounceback this year to finish her college career on a high note. With that swim under her belt, Swanson becomes the favorite in a very deep 200 free final.
32-minutes later, Wilson won the 200 IM in 1:59.43. That was half-a-second slower than her 1:58.83 from prelims that broke the Division III National Record, but still carried her to an easy win. MIT’s Anna Kokensparger was 2nd in 2:01.74, and Denison’s Michelle Williams was 3rd in 2:01.99.
Wilson’s biggest challenge will come in her final race, another one she’s never lost, when she goes up against Howell again in the 400 IM. In the least, Wilson has the mental edge coming into that race after this victory.
Emory didn’t have extremely high placers in either of those races, but what they did have was extreme depth. They lept out to a big early lead thanks to going 6-7-8 in the 500 free, and 5-6-7 in the 200 IM. That included a 7th-place finish from junior Courtney McDermott in the 500 in 4:55.77; she’s the older sister of Georgia’s All-American distance swimmer Amber. Emory missed some opportunities to move up in finals, but they took care of business in the morning.
In the final individual event of the day, Wheaton College’s Kirsten Nitz won in 22.87. That missed her season-best of 22.6 coming into the meet, but she was plenty-fast enough to win the title. Springfield’s Kellie Pennington was 2nd in 23.07, and Carleton College’s Sophie Pilhofer placed 3rd in 23.28. Emory only had two in this final, and they were again toward the bottom-half of the heat (6th and 7th), but as the only team to earn two into that A-final, they further padded their lead.
Kenyon, the most recognized Division III program, fought their way back into the scoring conversation with a 3-meter diving win from freshman Maria Zarka by score of 514.25 – just missing the National Record.
If there were one miscalculation on this first day for Williams, it was in the 200 medley relay. In prelims, they used Wilson as the anchor with fellow senior Rebecca Maher as the breaststroker. In finals, they slid Wilson to the breaststroke leg and inserted freshman Faye Sultan as their anchor in 23.59. That team won the B-Final in 1:44.08, but could have placed them a few spots higher had they done it in prelims.
The Kenyon women won that relay in 1:41.60, which gave them their first win in the event since 2007. The lone senior on that Kenyon relay was Hannah Saiz, their butterflier, who split a 23.75: the fastest in the field by over a second. Even though they would end the day with a 47-point deficit to Emory, this relay showed that Kenyon has plenty of big guns to come in this meet. Emory, the two-time defending relay champs, were 2nd in 1:42.99, and Johns Hopkins touched 3rd.
In the men’s meet, the story of the day were the Depew brothers of Redlands. They took 1st and 2nd in the 200 IM, with sophomore Jeff Depew winning in 1:47.20 for his 2nd-straight NCAA title. That was of little surprise as he was the defending champion; what was more of a surprise was his older brother Chris Depew, a senior, taking 2nd in 1:48.40. He was just 11th at last year’s meet, and vaulted up the standings in a very tightly-packed event for the silver and the Depew 1-2. Third place went to Denison’s Bartlett Quinn in 1:49.02, holding off a phenomenal closing 50 from St. Olaf sophomore Michael Gratz in 1:49.13.
Showing how big of a swing there is in this race at this level, defending runner-up Paul Dyrkacz finished just 14th this season. After the Depew brothers, who were fairly far out in front, the next 13 finishers all touched within about two seconds of each other: a fairly tight margin.
The points on day one were spread much more evenly in this men’s meet than it was in the women’s. Denison, the two-time defending champions, struck first blood for the second straight year thanks to Al Weik in the 500 free. He took victory in 4:23.99. He ran out of steam a bit at the end of this race, but by then had built an insurmountable lead. That time is about two seconds off of the one with which he won this race last season. Unlike last year, however, he was their only scorer in that race. They did get four total finalists in the 200 IM, which helped, but were totally shut out in the 50.
Meanwhile, Kenyon got a 3rd-place finish in that 50 free from Curtis Ramsey in 19.94, plus 5th (Ian Richardson) and 6th (Ian Stewart-Bates) to overtake the lead. Kenyon lost the two best 50 freestylers in the country from last year’s team, but they have reloaded quite well.
That 50 free was won by MIT’s Wyatt Ubellacker in 19.81. This final was markedly slower than the prelim was, with only three swimmers cracking 20 seconds. Ubellacker in 1st, Erik Klontz from Carleton College in 2nd, and Ramsey in 3rd.
MIT, with Ubellacker splitting a D-I worthy 20.44 on the butterfly leg, won the 200 medley relay in 1:28.57. Denison took 2nd, thanks to a Damon Rosenberg 24.65 breaststroke leg, and Emory was 3rd in 1:28.92.
Just as we said Kenyon’s sprint freestylers remained strong, they gave up their reign of dominance in this 200 medley. Coming into the meet, Kenyon had won this race 7-straight seasons, and 16 of the last 17 to boot, but here were just 4th in 1:29.01. That was despite a 19.52 anchor from Richardson. Johns Hopkins was 5th in 1:29.31, with a matching 19.42 anchor from Dylan Coggin.
The Lords of Kenyon ended day 1 with a 21-point lead ahead of Denison, and one more than that ahead of Johns Hopkins. There are still several teams within striking distance early, though, as the Lords are roughly 20 points off of the pace at which they were at last year’s meet. Denison, 2nd with 89 points, is right on target from where they were on day 1 last year.
Full, live meet results available here.
Live video available here.
Top 5 women’s teams after day 1
1. Emory 151.5
2. Kenyon 104
3. Denison 92
4. Williams 91.5
5. Amherst 66
Top 5 men’s teams after day 1
1. Kenyon 110
2. Denison 89
3. Mit 88
4. Johns Hopkins 72
5. Emory 67