By George Villarreal
The first night of finals concluded with national records in three events and strong swims all around. With three days of competition left, the tone has been set for a fast meet, and there will be plenty of great action to come. In the team scores, the Kenyon men have already accumulated a nearly insurmountable 173 points to Emory's 70.5. Kalamazoo and Denison are in a battle for third with 62 and 61 points respectively with MIT (53), Amherst (51), TCNJ (51), Tufts (32), Middlebury (29), and St. Thomas (27) rounding out the top ten.
For the women, Emory jumped out to an early lead despite a pair of wins for Williams. Emory has 135 points to Denison's 102. Williams (81) and Kenyon (70) also have an inside track on bringing home a trophy. Then the points fall quickly to Amherst (41), CMS (38), Keene State, Ithaca and UW-Lacrosse (28), and TCNJ (26) rounding out the top ten.500 Freestyle:
Amherst Junior Alex Fraser defended his 2010 title in 4:24.84 with an exciting finish. Fraser meticulously tracked down early leaders Alex Beyer (Washington University), Ian Stewart-Bates (Kenyon) and Mike Vernoia (The College of New Jersey). Fraser employed the fastest last 100 to chase down the early leaders, after being third at the 450. The women’s race featured a thrilling finish between top two swimmers Caroline Wilson (Williams College) and Kendra Stern (Amherst), who were the top seeds. Stern went out to a quick lead, split 54.79 and 1:53.00 at the 100 and 200, but Wilson ate into her lead with every successive 50. Both battled into the last stretches of the race, well under national record pace. Wilson made a strong move at the 450, splitting 28.49 to grab the lead once and for all, and held off Stern’s incredible 27.28 tenth 50 split to demolish the national record in a time of 4:45.47, .06 ahead of Stern. Denison’s Hilary Callen finished third, while Emory’s defending titlist and former record-holder Liz Horvat finished fourth. It’s notable that the record has progressed from Stern’s winning time of 4:52.34 to Horvat’s 4:47.04 to Wilson’s new time (“unsuited”) in a stretch of just three years, and that all three record-holders were in the same race. 200 Individual Medley:
Colin Gladys from Redlands won the title going away in 1:48.55, becoming the fourth fastest swimmer in that race all-time. Gladys dropped an impressive 30.46 split in the breaststroke leg, overcoming the early lead by Kenyon’s Nat Carruthers (22.93). Kenyon’s Blair Withington swam his last collegiate 200 IM in second in a time of 1:50.43, edging out Chris Bateman of St. Olaf (1:50.64). In the women’s race, Logan Todhunter of Williams College lead wire-to-wire, after posting a strong fly split of 25.03 and backstroke split of 31.31, to win in 2:02.57. MIT first-year swimmer Anna Kokensparger was second, while Emory’s Jen Aronoff was third in 2:04.08, barely exceeding Caitlin Lehberger of Westminster in 2:04.15, who had the fastest free split of the race. 50 Freestyle:
The men’s race pitted the new national record-holder and defending champ Zach Turk against teammate David Somers, the 6th fastest All-time. The evening final was just off the records, but both men held their respective seed spots, in 19.99 and 20.08, respectively. Kalamazoo’s Craig Fleming was third in 20.30, edging MIT’s Luke Cummings in 20.37. The women’s race saw the top two seeds flip-flop places, with Amanda Croix becoming the first swimmer from Carthage College to win a national title, in 22.77, third-fastest all-time. Croix’s finals swim was .15 faster than her prelim swim. Emory’s Ruth Westby came in a close second, in 22.92, while Ithaca’s Sheila Rhoades touched-out Laura Barito of Stevens Tech, 23.18 to 23.23. 3m Diving:
The men’s 3m event was won by defending champion sophomore Phil Devine from Oshkosh, with a score of 563.00. The top four included Nicholas Halbach of the US Merchant Marine Academy (555.00), Nathan LaRowe of Potsdam (542.95) and Eric Messina of Oswego (541.95). 200 Medley Relay:
The evening concluded with the much anticipated relays that pitted an upset-minded Kalamazoo team against defending champions and national record-holders Kenyon. Kalamazoo’s Paul Ellis led off with a 22.09 backstroke split, the fastest of all time. Kenyon’s Collin Ohning narrowed the gap with a split of 24.25 (history’s fastest), while Nat Carruthers put the Kenyon relay ahead for good with a strong 21.52 split. Lords were anchored by national record-holder Zachary Turk, who split a 19.12 (tied for fastest), who stopped the clock at 1:27.74, a full second faster than the previous record, set one year ago. Kalamazoo was second in 1:29.59, while MIT came in third in 1:29.94. The women’s race featured several relays with national record holders. The relay was won by Denison, who led from the start, in 1:41.92. Denison’s Olivia Zaleski led off in a stunning 25.45. Claremont-Mudd-Scripps Colleges came in second with 1:43.09, while the Williams College relay came in third in 1:44.55. Logan Todhunter of Williams split 24.04 on the fly leg, easily the fastest split in history.
Overall, the meet is proving to be fast, and swimmers and teams are rising to the occasion. Williams College, with two individual champions (and a national record) on the evening, had a particularly strong day. When asked about his team’s exceptional performances, Williams Coach Steve Custer said, “The women had a great morning session and followed it up with great swims this evening. Caroline Wilson’s swim in the 500 was as close to perfect a race as it could be, and she swam that just liked she had practiced all season long…. Tomorrow’s also a great day for us, and we look forward to another great morning.”
Three more days of competition await, and many more fast swims and historic performances are ahead.