HADLEY, Mass. – Defending NESCAC Champion Williams will attempt to win its seventh straight NESCAC title when the 2020 NESCAC Women's Swimming and Diving Championships begin on Thursday, February 13 with the finals of the 800 freestyle relay at the Middlebury Natatorium as the Panthers are hosting the 24-event affair. Heading into the 2020 NESCAC Championship, 15 champions return to the pool and 39 of the top three finishers in the 24 events from last year are making a repeat appearance at this year's championship.
Five of the eleven NESCAC are ranked in the top 20 nationally:
Williams – 4th
Tufts – 8th
Amherst – 12th
Bates – 16th
Bowdoin – 18th
Eph head coach Steve Kuster commented, "We've had a pretty consistent season up to this point and accomplished several of our goals. I think we have competed well when we have been pushed and knew we needed to show up. I expect this weekend will be a very competitive meet and we'll need all 24 women to dial it up again in order to be where we want to be at the end of the meet. In terms of our strength, I think we are a team with very good depth. The 24 who will be at the meet all have the ability to make impactful contributions."
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. Tickets will be sold at the door and the doors 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 will be available throughout the weekend at NESCAC.com and via Twitter @NESCAC.
Last season, Williams won 15 of 24 events to capture its sixth straight NESCAC Championship and 18th overall. The Ephs finished the meet with 1,873 points and were followed by Tufts (1,439.5 points), Amherst (1,322 points), Bates (1,020 points), and Connecticut College (932.5 points).
Middlebury senior Frances VanderMeer (Elmira, N.Y.) returns to defend her title in the 50 freestyle and holds the third-fastest time in the field this season (24.22). Williams junior Laura Westphal (Northville, Mich.), the 2019 NESCAC Swimmer of the Year, enters the championship meet with the top time in the event (23.87) and Tufts first-year Katelin Ulmer (Rye, N.Y.) owns a time of 24.03 to round out the top three times entering the event.
A new champion will be crowned in the 100 freestyle as last year's winner, Olivia Haskell of Connecticut College has graduated. Fellow Camel and junior Maddie Ford (Acton, Mass.) has posted the top time in the event this season (52.09). Amherst senior Natalie Rumpelt (Albany, N.Y.), the 2019 runner-up, owns the second-best time (52.35) and Bates sophomore Caroline Sweeney (New Canaan, Conn.) looks to contend after recording a time of 52.76 this season. Westphal will attempt to extend her win streak to three straight years in the 200 freestyle, but does not own a top-three time in the event this season. A trio of Jumbos boast the top times in 2020, led by sophomore Mary Hufzinger's (Sandy Hook, Conn.) 1:51.88.
In the distance freestyle events, Westphal looks to earn her third NESCAC title in both the 1,650 and the 500 freestyle races. She paces the entries for the 1,650 event with a 1,000 time of 10:23.90 and is followed by a pair of Bowdoin swimmers, junior Nadia Eguchi (New York, N.Y.) (10:34.89) and sophomore Kerryann Reynolds (Centerport, N.Y.) (10:35.69). while Tufts first-year Katelin Isakoff (Simsbury, Conn.) is the fastest in the 500 freestyle (4:59.36). The 1,000 freestyle race will have a new champion after former Eph Alison McNamara won four straight event titles. Eguchi, Reynolds (10:35.69), and junior Sook-Hee Evans (Newtown, Pa.) of Tufts (10:36.48) are the three fastest swimmers among the field. Colby sophomore Addie Page (Glen Rock, N.J.), the 2019 NESCAC Rookie of the Year, is also scheduled to compete in the 500,1,000 and 1,650 races.
All three champions from last year's backstroke events return in 2020. Wesleyan senior Caroline Murphy (Gardiner, N.Y.) is the defending champion in the 50 and 100 backstroke events. She set a NESCAC record and a NESCAC meet record in the 50-yard race last season (25.37) to win the event for the third straight year. VanderMeer leads the field in the 50-yard race with a time of 26.38 and senior Caroline Conforti (Slingerlands, N.Y.) of Williams and Tufts sophomore Emma Donchi (Portland, Ore.) have posted matching times of 26.99 this season. Murphy looks to close out her career with her third straight title in the 100 backstroke after winning back-to-back titles in 2018 and 2019. Samantha Kilcoyne (Upton, Mass.), a first-year from Williams, boasts the best time of the year at 57.13. Williams junior Gwyneth Maloy (New Haven, Conn.) will attempt to repeat as the 200 backstroke champion and has the second-fastest time of the season (2:04.66), behind Bates first-year Gabby Smart's (Clinton, Mont.) mark of 2:04.34.
Williams senior Caroline White (Winter Park, Fla.) swept the breaststroke events in 2019. After winning her first title in the 50-yard race last year, White looks to repeat in 2020. She will be challenged by Bates first-year Abigail Gibbons (Westtown, N.Y.) who has the fastest time this season (30.20). Amherst junior Nina Fitzgerald (Lawrenceville, N.J.), the 2019 runner-up, also returns to the field and owns the second-best time (30.30) this year. White will attempt to complete the four-year sweep in both the 100 and 200-yard races. Tufts junior Lily Kurtz (Cheshire, Conn.) is the fastest in the 100-yard race this season (1:04.68) and finished third in the event last year. Fitzgerald, the runner-up in the 100 last season, has posted a time of 1:04.97, and Gibbons will contend in the event with a top-three time of 1:05.88. White, Fitzgerald, and Kurtz went 1-2-3 in the 200 breaststroke in 2019 and hold the three fastest times this year, led by Fitzgerald (2:20.40).
There will be a new champion in the 50 butterfly race. Kilcoyne has the best time this season (25.53) and the second- and third-place finishers from 2019, juniors Caroline Apathy (Devon, Pa.) of Bates and Sasha Fong (Santa Rosa, Calif.) of Tufts, return to the field. Apathy is the defending champion in the 100 butterfly where Kilcoyne has been the fastest this season (55.52). Junior Mary Laurita (Mendham, N.J.) of Bowdoin, the third-place finisher in 2019, owns the third-best time this season (56.69). Tufts junior Amy Socha (Chesterton, Ind.) holds the second-best time in the 100 butterfly (56.42) and returns to defend her title at the 200 distance. Teammates Abby Claus (Summit, N.J.), a junior, (2:04.69) and Isakoff (2:04.76) own the top two times this season.
Williams junior Molly Craig (Mansfield, Pa.) is the two-time defending champion in the 400 IM and looks to win another title at the 200 IM distance to go with the one she claimed in 2018 after finishing as the runner-up in 2019. Craig has been the fastest swimmer in both events this year, 2:06.63 (200 IM) and 4:27.95 (400 IM).
Amherst junior Lindsey Ruderman (Durham, N.C.) is the two-time defending champion on both the 1-meter and 3-meter boards. The Williams duo of junior Gabby Mercier (Granby, Mass.) and first-year Emma Casey (Smithtown, N.Y.) are 1-2 heading into the championship meet. Casey has a top mark of 455.33 points in the 1-meter event, while Mercier has recorded a high score of 437.03 points. On the 3-meter board, Mercier leads the way with 486.83 points and is followed by Casey's 479.33 points. Middlebury sophomore Olivia Rieur (Brookline, Mass.) ranks third in both events (389.70 points, 1-meter and 419.70 points, 3-meter).
Williams has won every relay race over the past five NESCAC championships. The Ephs own the fastest times in the 400 freestyle relay (3:31.50), the 200 medley relay (1:45.14), and the 400 medley relay (3:52.18). Tufts boasts the fastest relay this season in the 200 freestyle (1:36.40) and 800 freestyle (7:30.42).