Williams Women Open Up Commanding Lead on Day 2 of NESCACs

Report contributed by Robert Reiser


  • February 14th-17th, 2019
  • Wesleyan University, Middletown, Connecticut
  • Teams: Amherst, Bates, Bowdoin, Colby, Connecticut College, Hamilton, Middlebury, Trinity, Tufts, Wesleyan, Williams
  • Live Results

Williams College opened up a commanding lead on the first full day of the 2019 Women’s NESCAC Championships as they look to garner their sixth championship in a row and 13th in the last 14 years.  Swimming was fast across the board as a number of athletes qualified for NCAA’s or broke long standing school records.

In the 200 free relay the Williams quartet of seniors Maia Hare and Dana Chung and sophomores Gwyneth Maloy and Laura Westphal raced to an NCAA B cut time of 1:34.19, well below the 1:35.15 it took to qualify for NCAA’s last year.  They were followed by Connecticut College in 1:35.08 who out touched a surprisingly fast Bates squad just .05 behind in 1:35.13 on the back of sophomore Caroline Apathy’s field leading 22.92 split.  Both teams will be on the bubble for an NCAA invite – look for them to potentially time trial to improve their seeds.

Williams extended its win streak in the 50 Breast behind junior Caroline White who finished just ahead of Amherst sophomore Nina Fitzgerald (one of three Amherst Mammoths in the finals) and Wesleyan freshman Mengmeng Gibbs.  The 50 fly was won by Williams senior Maia Hare, last year’s 9th place finisher, in a pool record time of :24.57 while Bates sophomore Caroline Apathy followed up her relay split with a second place finish, replicating her placing from last year.

Williams swept the podium in the 500 free.  Building off her 800 relay split from the night before, one of the fastest NESCAC 800 splits of all time, defending champion Laura Westphal won the event in 4:53.95, just off her morning swim of 4:53.03 that should qualify her for nationals but well off her 4:47.85 from last year’s NCAA’s.  Teammate senior Alison McNamara was second in 4:56.89 and freshman Abby Matheny was third in a lifetime best 4:57.73, both under the 4:59.14 it took to qualify for NCAA’s last year.  Tufts sophomore Amy Socha and Amherst senior Natalie Rumpelt were also under last year’s qualifying time.

Williams’ win streak was finally broken in the 50 backstroke by Wesleyan junior Caroline Murphy.  Ms. Murphy’s winning time of :25.37 was a NESCAC record – quite a feat in a league that included national record holder Brittany Sasser and multiple time NCAA champion Maggie Rosenbaum – and .79 seconds faster than her winning time from last year.  In another case of deja-vu she was followed by 2018 runner-up senior Maeve Wilbur of Connecticut College with a time of :26.07 and Middlebury junior Fran Vandermeer in :26.12.

In the closest event of the day Bowdoin senior Sterling Dixon overtook 2018 All-American Molly Craig in the last 50 to win the 200IM by 4 hundredths in 2:02.65.  It was an over two second drop from Dixon’s previous best done in 2017 and four seconds below what it took to qualify for NCAA’s last year.  Tufts junior Grace Goetcheus was third in 2:05.95, right on the bubble individually for NCAA’s although she likely qualified last night as part of Tufts’ 2nd place 800 free relay.

The 50 free also saw close racing at the top where 2018 runner-up Middlebury’s Fran Vandermeer earned her second all NESCAC award of the day by winning the event in :23.55, .04 ahead of Connecticut College senior Olivia Haskell.  Both were under the :23.66 it took to qualify for NCAA’s last year.  Haskell was followed by teammate Maddie Ford in :23.72, just ahead of Amherst College’s Ingrid Shu in :23.75.  Ford’s time was a drop from her previous best of :24.44 from last year’s meet.

Focus shifted to the diving boards where sophomore Lindsay Ruderman of Amherst defended her 2018 championship with a score of 465.85, just ahead of Williams’ Gabby Mercier’s score of 451.65 who finished third last year.  Bowdoin senior Rebecca Stern finished third, just ahead of Tufts Amber Chong, with the top four divers achieving NCAA qualifying scores.

The evening closed with the 400 Medley Relay where Williams returned to its winning ways with the quartet of Abby Matheny, Caroline White, Anna Peterson, and Laura Westphal in a time of 3:46.61.  While their win was expected what was not was being pushed by second place finisher Wesleyan University who dropped almost 14 seconds off their seed time to finish in 3:48.07.  Caroline Murphy backed up her 50 backstroke win with a leadoff split of :55.27, fastest in the field.  She was followed by freshman MengMeng Gibbs in 1:03.93, almost 2.5 seconds faster than her flat start best of 1:06.33 and the third fastest in the field.  Juniors Grace Middleton and Hannah O’Halloran closed out the relay almost 1.5 seconds faster than their 2017 school record.  Third place Tufts, fourth place Amherst, fifth place Bates, and sixth place Bowdoin were all under the 3:51.38 it took to qualify for NCAA’s last year.

Despite Williams’ large lead a number of teams have been swimming faster than expected.  Wesleyan University has outperformed their seeds, in the process breaking their 800 free relay, 400 medley relay, 50 back, 50 fly, and 50 breast school records – despite having a small squad coach Peter Solomon continues his record of tapering well for championship meets.  Last year their 400 free relay finished 9th at NCAA’s so stay tuned for that event on Sunday.  Likewise, Connecticut College – seen by many to be weaker than last year – has leveraged their sprinters to a number of high finishes while Bates has exceeded their seeds as well and likely qualified their 200 and 800 free relays.

The event continues Saturday morning at 10:00AM with the 1,000 free, 400IM, 100 back, 100 fly, 100 breast, 200 free, and 200 medley relay.

  1. Williams – 781
  2. Tufts – 641
  3. Amherst – 590
  4. Bates – 436.5
  5. Wesleyan – 405
  6. Connecticut College – 398
  7. Bowdoin – 360
  8. Middlebury – 359
  9. Trinity College – 239.5
  10. Colby College – 209
  11. Hamilton College – 178

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