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HADLEY, Mass. – Williams College, winners of the last nine NESCAC Women’s Swimming & Diving titles, will be in search of a 10th conference crown this weekend when the Ephs head to Middlebury, Vt. for the 2010 NESCAC Women’s Swimming & Diving Championships. The three-day event starts Friday, Feb. 19 with preliminary heats in the morning and championship races in the evening at the Middlebury College Natatorium.
Williams won the 2009 NESCAC title
by the largest margin in championship history, as the Ephs’
1,827.5 points was 398 better than runner-up Amherst (1,429.5). The
depth of the Ephs has led to their dominance over the years and it
was once again on display last February when Williams won 15 of the
24 events, including a first place showing in four of the five
relays. While Williams has claimed the last nine conference meets
and Amherst has finished among the top three teams at the
championship every year it has been held, Tufts had its best
showing in program history in 2009 when the Jumbos finished in
third with 1,145.5 points. Middlebury, the runner-up to Williams in
2008, came in fourth with 1,047, and Colby rounded out the top five
with 886 points, the Mules’ highest finish since 2005.
"I think most of the pressure comes from within," said Eph head coach Steve Kuster when asked if there was any pressure on the Ephs this year. "Certainly everyone wants to win a title, but we are mainly looking to get up and race better than we ever have. If the women are able to do that, the title will follow."
The Ephs will enter the NESCAC Championships healthy and rested. "The women have put in some very good and consistent work this year. I know they are fit, and hopefully well rested come Friday."
Asked who might be the biggest threat to the streak, Kuster commented, "It's hard to say. Certainly Amherst has several swimmers who will have an impact on the meet. Tufts fielded a very strong team last year so I expect they will also be up there. Mainly we have talked about making sure our groups stays motivated, excited and swimming with a purpose regardless of what the scoreboard says."
When asked what will make this a successful weekend for the Ephs, Kuster stated, "A title of course, fast swimming/great diving, lots of personal bests, a large team heading to NCAA's and that the women take advantage of being together as a team of 24 for the last time, create an experience and a team weekend that they will remember for a long time."
Amherst junior Kendra Stern (Albuquerque, N.M.) returns to the league meet looking to add to her legacy in the freestyle events. Two years ago as a rookie, Stern rewrote the NESCAC record books in the 100, 200, and 500-yard freestyle en route to winning Swimmer of the Meet honors. She put on another spectacular performance in 2009, repeating in all three races and finishing in a three-way tie for the most individual points at the championship. Stern once again heads into the NESCAC championship with the top times in the conference in all three events. In the 50-yard freestyle, challengers will include sophomores Erika Fernandes (Westport, Mass.) of Connecticut College, Megan Gibbons (Clarks Summit, Pa.) of Hamilton, and Carolyn Geller (Great Neck, N.Y.) of Williams. Geller is the top returner from last year’s 50, finishing third in 24.27, while Fernandes and Gibbons are among the fastest times in the NESCAC this year. In the other short distance freestyle events, look for first year Cara Colker-Eybel (Columbus, Ohio) of Wesleyan to have a strong showing at her first conference championship.
The long distance freestyle events may go to one of the newest members of the Williams squad. Eph first year Caroline Wilson (West Hartford, Conn.) has the fastest marks this season in both the 1,000 and 1,650. If Wilson is able to duplicate those top times this weekend she would not only win both races but also set new championship records in both events, after junior teammate Erin Altenburger (Mendham, N.J.) and Tufts junior Megan Kono (LaGrange, Ill.) established new meet standards in the 1,000 and 1,650 last year, respectively. Williams has captured the 1,000 free at each of the previous two NESCAC championships.
Similar to Stern in the mid-distance freestyle events, Williams sophomore Logan Todhunter (Ithaca, N.Y.) has proven to be exceptional in the butterfly. During her first championship appearance a year ago, Todhunter added her name to the NESCAC record book by winning all three butterfly events in record time and was named the 2009 Swimmer of the Meet. Todhunter has the best performances to date in the NESCAC in the 50, 100 and 200-yard fly events and she will be chased by fellow Ephs Katharine O’Leary (Montclair, N.J.), Kathryn Ha (Dobbs Ferry, N.Y.), and Kelsey Roggensack (Phoenix, Ariz.), all first year swimmers.
The breaststroke events will feature a new champion this weekend after Williams’ Courtney Asher, the winner of all three races at last year’s meet, departed following graduation. Looking to carry forward Asher’s performance for the Ephs will be the senior tandem of Christina Metcalf (Cheshire, Conn.) and Lisa Cucolo (Glenville, N.Y.). The duo are the top returners from the 200-yard breaststroke, finishing third and fourth, respectively, and have the top times in the 100 and 200 this season. The 50-yard breaststroke could go to a first year swimmer for the first time since 2002, when former Eph Lindsay Payne came away with her first of many breaststroke titles in her first NESCAC meet. Rookies Catherine Sparks (New Canaan, Conn.) of Bates, Katie Karlson (Wayland, Mass.) of Connecticut College, and Liz Visconti (Cheshire, Conn.) of Williams have recorded the best times so far this season in the 50.
In the backstroke, senior Katelyn Drake (Hudson, Ohio) of Bates will look to earn her first individual title when she competes in her final conference championship. Drake has finished among the top four in both the 100 and 200-yard backstroke races at each of the last two league meets, turning in her best performance in 2009 with third place performances. Also pursuing the backstroke crowns will be Wesleyan junior Cara Madden and Amherst first year Emily Swett (Rochester, N.Y.).
All four relay wins for Williams last year were record-breaking, as the Ephs came away with the 200 and 400 freestyle and medley relays and finished second to Amherst in the 800-yard freestyle relay. While the Ephs and Jeffs look to be the favorites once again in the freestyle relays, a host of teams including Bates, Bowdoin, Connecticut College, Middlebury and Wesleyan could all challenge for a relay win. In diving, Tufts senior Lindsay Gardel (Wayland, Mass.) heads into the weekend hoping to best her second place performance from last year.
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. A webcast of final events will be available through the Middlebury athletics website at www.middlebury.edu/athletics.
2010 NESCAC WOMEN'S SWIMMING AND DIVING
Friday, February 19 - Sunday, February 21
at Middlebury Natatorium, Middlebury College
Order of Events
Diving Prelims, 2:00 P.M.
Finals, 6:00 P.M.
Finals, 5:50 P.M.
Finals, 5:30 P.M.