Men's Swimming & Diving Championships Take Place This Weekend
Defending Champ Williams Hosts Three-Day Event
HADLEY, Mass. – Williams College, winner of the last nine conference titles, will look to add to its legacy this weekend when the Ephs host the rest of the conference for the 2012 NESCAC Men's Swimming & Diving Championships.
The three-day meet, now in its 12th year, begins on Friday, Feb. 24 at the Samuelson-Muir Pool in Williamstown, Mass. with preliminary heats every morning followed by championship races in the early evening. Competition will get underway each day with preliminary heats at 10:00 a.m. Finals will begin at 6:00 p.m. on Friday, 5:50 p.m. Saturday, and 5:30 p.m. on Sunday.
Tickets are $6 per session or $30 for an all-session pass for adults and $2 per session for children and students or $10 for an all-session pass. Doors will open 90 minutes prior to the heats and finals. No pre-sale of tickets will be available, as all tickets will be sold at the door. A live webcast of the evening finals will be available free of charge courtesy of Williams College. In addition, live results will be available via the Internet following the completion of every event.
Williams recorded a score of 1,741.5 en route to their 10th NESCAC crown last winter, edging out Amherst by 127 points. It was the slimmest margin of victory since the 2003 meet, which the Ephs also claimed over the Lord Jeffs by just 73.5 points. While Amherst won more events than any other team, taking five individual races and three relay crowns, Williams' depth proved to be too much to overcome, as the Ephs gained the overall advantage by having two-or-more swimmers place in 12 of the 19 championship finals in addition to winning the other two relay events. During the annual dual meet between these two rivals back on Jan. 7, host Amherst posted a 145-98 victory over Williams, winning 9-of-13 events. If the Lord Jeffs hope to win their first-ever conference crown, they will need to not only overcome the Ephs' strong roster but also fend off challenges from the nine other NESCAC teams. Among the squads hoping to finish in the top five along with Amherst and Williams will be Tufts, Connecticut College, and Middlebury. The Jumbos have earned a spot among the top three in each of the last six years, placing third in 2011 with 1,318 points. The Panthers recorded their second-straight fourth-place showing (1,028.5), while the Camels came in fifth (704).
The freestyle events were dominated by Amherst and Williams in 2011, as the two teams made up more than half (27-of-48) of the finals, including a 500 free final that featured five Jeffs and three Ephs. The short and mid-distance freestyle races will feature a first-time champion this weekend. In the ultra-competitive 50-yard freestyle, seniors Nathan Mecray (Cumberland, Maine) of Bowdoin, Nick Daly (Cape Elizabeth, Maine) of Middlebury, and Owen Rood (Branford, Conn.) of Tufts are the top returners from last year, as they placed three-four-five, respectively, and all three own the best marks in the conference this season.
Alex Fraser single-handedly gave Amherst more than half of its freestyle wins last February, sweeping the 100, 200, and 500-yard freestyle races for the second time in his career. With Fraser having moved on following graduation last May, a host of hopefuls will challenge for an individual title. In addition to the likes of Mecray, Daly, and Rood, the Amherst tandem of senior Tim White (Centerport, N.Y.) and sophomore Parker Moody (Watertown, N.Y.) along with juniors Taylor Hogenkamp (East Aurora, N.Y.) of Hamilton and Tom Vieth (Louisville, Ky.) of Williams will all look to reach the podium summit this weekend.
In his first appearance at the NESCAC meet a year ago, Amherst sophomore Conor McAuliffe (Andover, Mass.) edged Williams junior John Armstrong (Gladwyne, Pa.) by one-tenth of a second for the 1,000-yard freestyle title. A trio of rookies in the form of Amherst's Ben Grimes (Louisville, Ky.), Connecticut College's Max Fabian (Keene, N.H.), and Williams' Christian Gronbeck (Simsbury, Conn.) could surprise the returners in the 1,000. The 1,650-yard freestyle may leave little doubt, though, as Lord Jeff senior Ryan Lichtenfels (McLean, Va.) looks to go 4-for-4 for his career in the event. Lichtenfels set the meet record in the race during his freshman year of 2009.
The battle for the breaststroke titles will feature a field of familiar foes. Bowdoin's Nathan Mecray has his eyes on a third-consecutive 50-yard crown and would also like to add his first-ever 100-yard award. Owning the top time in both events heading into the weekend, Mecray placed fifth in the 100 in 2010 and third in 2011. In the 100, senior Ben McBratney (Evanston, Ill.) of Amherst just missed repeating as the champion last winter, coming in second as part of a top-three group that was separated by a half second. The top three in the 200 breaststroke were a carbon-copy from the year before, as Williams junior Paul Dyrkacz (Wilbraham, Mass.) won the event in record time over fellow Ephs Chris Corbett (Highland Heights, Ohio) and Amherst senior Bart Federak (Towaco, N.J.). Corbett claimed second over Federak by over two seconds.
Last year, Connecticut College senior Tim Walsh (Lincoln Park, N.J.) rewrote the conference record books in all three backstroke events, sweeping the races for the second time in his career (2009). Walsh appears poised to repeat the feat this weekend, and if he does he will have won the 100-yard backstroke in each of his four showings at the NESCAC championships. A trio of Lord Jeffs could challenge Walsh's reign in the backstroke. First time competitors Conor Deveney (Newton, Conn.) and Michael Rochford (Sammamish, Wash.) have some of the best times in the conference across all three events. Senior teammate Tim White edged Walsh by 0.05 seconds for the 2010 200-yard backstroke crown but did not compete in the 2011 race, as he swam in the freestyle events.
The butterfly titles will be up for grabs this weekend. Bowdoin senior Mac Routh (Alexandria, Va.) hopes to collect his second NESCAC crown in the 50-yard fly and holds the top time in the conference currently. Routh, who won the race during the 2010 meet, is the top returner from last year's race. Other fly swimmers that will look to take home their first league title will be sophomores Tyler Bulakul (Bangkok, Thailand) of Amherst and Sam Gill (Springfield, Ill.) of Connecticut College. Bulakul raced in all three butterfly finals last winter with his best performance coming in the 200 (4th). Gill turned in top-four showings in the 50 and 100 a year ago and ranks along with Routh atop the NESCAC in both events.
The individual medley may hold few surprises. Williams' Paul Dyrkacz swam away with both the 200- and 400-yard IM crowns in record fashion, as Dyrkacz won all three events he competed in en route to Swimmer of the Meet honors. Dyrkacz heads into the 2012 championships with the top marks among all competitors in both races. In diving, sophomore Johann Schmidt (Nanuet, N.Y.) of Tufts returns looking to defend his 1- and 3-meter titles. Challengers on the diving boards this weekend will be Amherst sophomore Colin White (Evanston, Ill.), who finished as the runner-up to Schmidt in both events, rookie teammate Mark Idleman (Allentown, Pa.), and Williams freshman Rohan Bhatt (Wellesley, Mass.).