MIDDLEBURY, VT -- After day one of the 2016 NESCAC Championships at the Middlebury Natatorium the Williams women sit atop the leaderboard with 731 points. Amherst College currently holds second place with 512 points, and they are trailed closely by Bates College with 492 points.
The commanding first day lead is the product of Williams' talent and their depth. In each of the nine events contested either first or second place went to an Eph, but perhaps more relevant is that every Williams preliminary swim was rewarded with a trip to finals.
The Eph women are ahead of their scoring pace from the 2015 NESCAC Championships. After day one last year Williams had amassed 686.5 points, while Bates College was second with 541 points. Williams went on to win the 2015 Championships by over a 750 point margin.
The first points of the 2016 Championships were awarded in the 200 Freestyle Relay where Williams grabbed first place. The team of Maia Hare, Lauren Jones, Faye Sultan and Breanna Nguyen set a pool record of 1:34.94 on their way to beating out teams from Connecticut College, Amherst, Bowdoin and the rest of the field. The 'B' relay of Anna Epstein, Dana Chung, Erin Kennedy and Delaney Smith won out against all other 'B' relays in the consolation final.
In the 50 Breaststroke senior captain Breanna Nguyen finished second overall, improving upon her third place finish in the event from 2015. She was joined in the top heat by junior Olivia Clark in fifth place, who improved from her ninth place finish last year.
The Williams first-years had a chance to shine in the 50 Butterfly, where three of them competed in the championship heat along with senior Anna Epstein. Maia Hare finished second overall with a time of 24.88 behind Conklin of Amherst. Erin Kennedy took fourth place, Epstein took fifth, and Bryanna Lee seventh.
In the morning session sophomore Emma Waddell also competed in the 50 Butterfly as an exhibition event, but her time of 23.99 was good enough for a pool, NESCAC meet and NESCAC conference record. This is Waddell's first individual conference record.
The 500 Freestyle also saw four Ephs make the championship final. Though Middlebury's Wyer took the top spot, Williams dominated the scoring. First-year Alison McNamara grabbed second place, junior Lauren Jones was third, both earning NCCA B standards. Sophomores Emma Sawkins and Katherine Priest swam well to earn sixth and eighth places, respectively.
Then in the 50 Backstroke Katherine Bennett won the first individual event of the day for Williams. Her preliminary swim of 25.67 set a pool record in the event. Junior Erica Meyers swam well to make the championship final and finished in eighth place, and senior Anna Epstein had a strong nighttime performance to win the consolation final and finish ninth overall.
The 200 IM was one of the fastest events of the day. Emma Waddell set a new pool and meet record in the prelimiaries, but was only 0.13 seconds ahead of Amhert's Emily Hyde. At finals both Hyde and Waddell swam faster than that new meet record, but this time Hyde bested Waddell to win the event. Williams' Olivia Jackson would finish sixth overall, while Ephs Sofie Pietrantonio and Paige Haller also competed in the consolation and preconsolation finals.
Maia Hare returned to the pool in the 50 Freestyle and won her first individual NESCAC title. This event was another point grab for Williams, who again had four competitors in the championship final. Behind Hare, teammates and fellow sprint specialists Sultan, Smith and Chung finished fifth, sixth and eighth, respectively.
After all this action in the pool, a diving break turned the attention to Ariana Ross on the boards for Williams. Ross headed into the evening session in second place behind Emma Jarcyk of Bates. But Ross was able to improve upon her scores from the morning session to come back and win the 1 meter competition by just five points.
Finally, the last event of the evening was the 400 Medley Relay. After the morning session the team from Amherst was seeded first. A top-to-bottom strong perfomance was needed to best that team, and the Williams squad of Olivia Jackson, Breanna Nguyen and Lauren Jones was able to get it done. Jackson burst out to a strong lead with a split of 55.20. But Breanna Nguyen was tasked with holding off Hyde of Amherst in the Breaststroke leg. After a good split of 1:04.43 from Nguyen, Williams nonetheless found themselves trailing Amherst. Waddell delivered a blistering 52.57 Butterfly split to give Lauren Jones a slight lead going into the anchor leg. Jones delivered the vicotry to Williams with a split of 51.43, and thus capped off a successful and exciting night of Williams swimming.
Though they look strong and are even outpacing their convincing championship run from last year, the Ephs will look to continue their scoring flurry over the next two days.