Women's Swimmers Headed To NESCAC's

February 16, 2011

Williams College will look to add another chapter to its storied legacy this weekend when the Ephs serve as host to the 2011 edition of the NESCAC Women’s Swimming & Diving Championships. The three-day meet begins Friday, Feb. 18 with preliminary heats in the morning and championship races in the evening at the Muir-Samuelson Pool in Williamstown, Mass.

A year after Williams won the conference crown by the largest margin in championship history, scoring 398 more points than second-place Amherst, the Ephs returned to the league meet and re-wrote the record books once again, as they posted the highest total ever (1,954) and swam past the rival Lord Jeffs by a stunning 578 points last February. Williams has overpowered its opponents at the NESCAC championship in recent years with its depth. The Ephs won half of the 24 overall events in 2010 and had two-or-more swimmers place among the top eight in 15 of the 19 individual events including the 400-yard IM, which saw Williams capture the top five spots. Following the Ephs last winter were Amherst (1,376), as the Jeffs have finished in the top three every year the championship has been held, Middlebury (1,148), Tufts (1,070.5), and Colby (936). Although the Mules’ fifth-place showing matched their 2009 performance, they scored the most points at the conference championship since 2001.

The 2011 NESCAC championships will be the final league meet for Amherst senior Kendra Stern (Albuquerque, N.M.). The reigning Swimmer of the Meet has an opportunity to become only the second person in meet history to earn the conference’s top honor three times over their career, a feat which would place her in the company of Williams great Lindsay Payne. After putting her name in the NESCAC record books in the 100, 200, and 500-yard freestyle races during her first-ever appearance in 2008, Stern went on to win all three during her sophomore season, then smashed her own records at the conference championship as a junior. Heading into the weekend, Stern owns the top times in the conference in all three events and could once again post a new set of record-breaking times.

Friday’s 50-yard freestyle may also feature a repeat winner with the return of junior Megan Gibbons (Clarks Summit, Pa.) of Hamilton. Gibbons, who has one of the fastest times in the conference in the 50 heading into the weekend, edged Connecticut College junior Erika Fernandes (Westport, Mass.) for the 2010 title by two-hundreths of a second. Other challengers in the 50 will include Williams junior Carolyn Geller (Great Neck, N.Y.). Geller finished third in the race in 2009 and was fifth in 2010.

It was a one-two-three finish for the Ephs in the longest distance event at the NESCAC meet last February. Williams sophomore Caroline Wilson (West Hartford, Conn.) led the way for her squad in the 1,650-yard freestyle, crushing the championship record by nearly 15 seconds and beating the rest of the field by more than double that with a time of 16:57.22. Wilson and senior teammate Erin Altenburger (Mendham, N.J.) own some of the best times in the conference in both the 1,650 and 1,000-yard freestyle races this season and both could end up atop the podium. Altenburger set the record in the 1,000 during the 2009 NESCAC championships. Competitors for the long distance titles will include Tufts senior Megan Kono (La Grange, Ill.) and Amherst’s Anna Pietrantonio (Chevy Chase, Md.). Kono won the 1,650 in 2009 and was among the top six in both the 1,000 and 1,650 last year. Pietrantonio will be competing in her first-ever conference championship this weekend.

The Ephs may have an advantage over the field when it comes to the butterfly events. Williams won all three races for the second-straight year last winter thanks to the efforts of junior Logan Todhunter (Ithaca, N.Y.) and sophomore Kathryn “KC” Ha (Dobbs Ferry, N.Y.). Todhunter made a splash during her first league championship in 2009, taking all three fly events in record-setting time and garnering Swimmer of the Meet honors. A year later, Todhunter won both the 50 and 100-yard butterfly events and was also part of three first place relay teams. Ha prevented Todhunter’s bid for a complete sweep as she was the first of four consecutive Ephs in the 200 with a time of 2:03.20, just 0.41 seconds ahead of Todhunter. The 50-yard butterfly could go to a first-year performer, as rookies Mia Greenwald (Park City, Utah) of Tufts, Allison Merz (Los Angeles, Calif.) of Amherst, and Maggie Rosenbaum (Alford, Mass.) of Hamilton all have posted some of the best times in the conference this season.

The breaststroke events will be up for grabs this weekend. Gone are the Williams tandem of Lisa Cucolo and Christina Metcalf, as the two combined to finish first and second in the 100 and 200 before graduating last May. Returning to the field will be Amherst’s Rebecca Kelley (Richmond, Va.). The junior won the 50-yard breaststroke last February a year after finishing fourth in the event. She not only holds the top mark in the conference in the event this season, she is also near the top in the 100, a race in which she placed third last year. Other swimmers in the hunt for a breaststroke title include Catherine Sparks (New Canaan, Conn.) and Katie Karlson (Wayland, Mass.), sophomores at Bates and Connecticut College, respectively, and Tufts first year Jenny Hu (Oakland, Calif.).

Amherst won all three backstroke events at last year’s championship with sophomore Emily Swett (Rochester, N.Y.) claiming the 100 and 200 individual titles and classmate Maddy Sprung-Keyser (Los Angeles, Calif.) winning the 50. The Jeffs’ duo will be challenged by a number of first year competitors, including Hamilton’s Rosenbaum, Williams’ Stephanie Nguyen (San Jose, Calif.), and Middlebury’s Andrea Tibbetts (Dover, Mass.).

Williams won four of the five relay events for the second year in a row last winter and the Ephs may post a similar performance at this weekend’s championship. Among the teams looking to crack the top three in the relay events will be Amherst, Bates, Connecticut College, Hamilton, and Wesleyan. In diving, Amherst junior Meggie Meisinger (St. Louis, Mo.) is the top returner from 2010 after recording top-three performances on the 1- and 3-meter boards. Watch for first year teammate Lizzy Linsmayer (Denver, Colo.) and the Ephs’ McKenzie Murdoch (Winnetka, Ill.) to also challenge for the diving crowns.

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 two hours prior to the heats and finals. A complete championship schedule along with real-time results will be available at www.nescac.com.

-- courtesy NESCAC --