HADLEY, Mass. - The five-time defending NESCAC Champion Williams women’s swimming and diving team looks to earn its 18th overall conference title when the 2019 NESCAC Women’s Swimming and Diving Championships begin on Thursday, February 14 with the finals of the 800 freestyle relay. This year, the championships move to a four-day format as the 800 freestyle relay was shifted to Thursday night. The Wesleyan Natatorium on the campus of Wesleyan University will host the 24-event affair.
Competition on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday begins with preliminary heats at 10 a.m. Finals are scheduled for 6 p.m. on Friday, 5:50 p.m. on Saturday, and 5:30 p.m. on Sunday. All tickets will be sold at the door. Tickets for Thursday evening's session are $5 for adults and $3 for children and students. Tickets for Friday, Saturday, and Sunday are $8 per session for adults and $3 per session for children and students. Doors will open 60 minutes prior to the preliminaries and finals.
A live webcast will be available at NESCAC.com and on Roku, AppleTV, and Amazon Fire (search NESCAC Network). Results from the NESCAC Women’s Swimming and Diving Championships will be available throughout the weekend at NESCAC.com and via the NESCAC Twitter account (@NESCAC).
Last season, Williams outdistanced the field with 1,971 points to win its fifth straight NESCAC title. Amherst (1,615) finished second and was followed by Connecticut College (1,060.5) in third. Tufts (1,023.5) and Bowdoin (998.5) rounded out the top five in the team standings. Bates (943), Middlebury (826) and Wesleyan (725) took places six through eight, respectively, while Trinity (443.5), Hamilton (382) and Colby (296) rounded out the field.
Heading into the 2019 NESCAC Championship, 13 champions return to the pool and 45 of the top three finishers in the 24 events are making a repeat appearance at the championship.
A new champion will be crowned in the 50 freestyle. The Tufts duo of junior Brooke Bernstein (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.) and first-year Hannah Spencer (Centerport, N.Y.) are leading contenders for a first-place finish and 2017 NESCAC Champion Ingrid Shu (Montville, N.J.), a junior from Amherst, has the potential to earn a second title. Middlebury junior Frances VanderMeer (Elmira, N.Y.), last year’s runner-up, also returns to the field. The 100 freestyle will also have a new champion. Amherst junior Natalie Rumplet (Albany, N.Y.), a third-place finisher last season, owns the best time in the event this season and will be challenged by sophomores Maddie Ford (Acton, Mass.) of Connecticut College and Laura Westphal (Northville, Mich.) of Williams. Westphal was the 2018 NESCAC Rookie of the Year. In the 200 freestyle, the first, second and third-place finishers from last year all return to the pool. Westphal is the defending NESCAC Champion, but Rumpelt leads the field with the top time this season. Bowdoin senior Sterling Dixon (New York, N.Y.) will also make a push for the top spot on the podium.
In the distance freestyle events, Westphal looks to repeat as the NESCAC Champion in the 1,650 and the 500 freestyle races. She enters the championship with the second fastest time in the 1,650 and looks to extend the Ephs’ winning streak in the event to five consecutive seasons. Amherst senior Jayne Vogelzang (Lexington, Mass.) owns has the fastest time in the event heading into the championship and Tufts sophomore Sook-hee Evans (Newtown, Pa.) will also challenge the field. Williams senior Alison McNamara (Tappan, N.Y.) is the three-time defending champion in the 1,000 freestyle, but sophomore teammate Molly Craig (Mansfield, Pa.) enters the event with the top time, while Vogelzang and Williams sophomore Casey Delano (Milton, Mass.) are seeded second and third, respectively. Westphal, Craig, and Evans are the leading swimmers heading into the 500 freestyle race.
Wesleyan junior Caroline Murphy (Gardiner, N.Y.) looks to three-peat as the NESCAC Champion in the 50 backstroke. Murphy’s competition includes VanderMeer, who owns the fastest time this season, and Connecticut College senior Maeve Wilber (New Marlborough, Mass.), last year’s runner-up. Murphy is also the defending champion in the 100 backstroke. Bowdoin junior Marshall Lowery (Arundel, Maine), a runner-up last year, returns to the field and owns the top time entering the event. Williams junior Caroline Conforti (Slingerlands, N.Y.), a third-place finisher last season, also returns to the field. Tufts junior Grace Goetcheus (Kensington, Md.) and Wilber also have potential to compete for a spot on the podium. In the 200 backstroke, Amherst’s Bridgitte Kwong (Hong Kong Island, Hong Kong), Williams first-year Abby Matheney (Pittsburgh, Pa.), and Lowery own the top three times. Kwong and Lowery finished 2-3 last season, while last year’s champion Stephanie Moriarty of Amherst has graduated.
There will be a new champion in the 50 breaststroke, while Williams junior Caroline White (Winter Park, Fla.) looks to repeat in both the 100 and 200 breaststroke events. White owns the top time at the 50 and 200 distances, while Tufts sophomore Lily Kurtz (Cheshire, Conn.) is the leader in the 100 and will battle for first in the 50. Amherst senior Katie Smith (Walpole, Mass.) finished third last season in the 50 and returns to the field. Fellow Mammoth Nina Fitzgerald (Lawrenceville, N.J.), a sophomore, was a third-place finisher in the 100 breaststroke last season and will contend in both races this year.
The reigning champions in the 50 and 100 butterfly events have moved on, however, Bates sophomore Caroline Apathy (Devon, Pa.), the runner-up in both events last season, returns. Williams senior Maia Hare (New York, N.Y.) enters the championship with the fastest time in the 50 butterfly and will be challenged by Tufts sophomore Sasha Fong (Santa Rosa, Calif.). Fong is a top contender in the 100 butterfly with Bowdoin sophomore Mary Laurita (Mendham, N.J.) also looking to claim the title. Eph swimmers swept the 200 butterfly and all three competitors - Veronica Wolff (McLean, Va.), Madeleine Deardorff (Princeton, N.J.), and Craig - return this season. Craig has posted the fastest time entering the event this year. Tufts sophomore Abby Claus (Summit, N.J.) and Deardorff round out the top three seeds.
Craig also looks to defend her title in the 200 and 400 individual medley races. She has the fastest time at the 400 distance and ranks second in the 200. Bowdoin’s Dixon is the fastest in the pool this season in the 200 distance and seeded third in the 400 event. Kwong and Claus are also in the mix for a top-three finish in both events.
Amherst sophomore Lindsey Ruderman (Durham, N.C.) won both diving events last season as a rookie and looks to defend her titles. Williams sophomore Gabby Mercier (Granby, Mass.), the runner-up on the 3-meter board last year, owns the top mark this season and is ranked second on the 1-meter. Amherst senior Jackie Palermo (West Hartford, Conn.), the runner-up on the 1-meter board last year, enters the championship ranked second in the 3-meter competition and is third in the 1-meter event. Tufts sophomore Amber Chong (Issaquah, Wash.) leads the divers on the 1-meter board, while Bowdoin senior Rebecca Stern (Northfield, Ill.) the third-place finisher in the 3-meter a year ago, also returns for her final NESCAC Championship.
Williams has won every relay race over the past four championships. However, Tufts has posted the fastest times in the 200 and 800 freestyle, while Amherst owns the top time in the 400 freestyle. The Jumbos are also the top ranked team heading into the 200 medley relay, while the Ephs lead the field in the 400 medley relay.
* - NESCAC Record; # - NESCAC Meet Record