Championship Coverage - Week 3
There will be considerable drama on the deck of the Muir/Samuelson Pool at Williams College this weekend where the NESCAC’s women’s conference swim meet will take place. The drama will not center around the team championship, for host Williams should easily defend its title for an 11th year in a row. The drama will center around Amherst freestyle phenom Kendra Stern, who will be participating in her last NESCAC meet. How fast will she go? In the same pool during a dual meet in early January, Stern put up a shocking 1:46.80 in the 200 free. It was the second fastest Division III time ever and, if history is any judge, she’ll go faster this weekend. Expect Stern also to swim the 500 free – she’s already posted a 4:51.66 in a different dual meet – and the 100 free. She is the defending national champion in both the 100 and 200 and she is clearly determined to cap her collegiate career with personal best times.
Stern will expect to get stiff competition in the 500 from Caroline Wilson of Williams, who nipped Stern at the national meet last year by .06. Wilson is also the defending conference and national champ in the 1650 and the 400 IM, but in the latter event she can expect to battle several of her talented Williams teammates, including Katharine O’Leary, Bonnie Patchen, and Ellen Ramsey. The meet will also feature butterflier/IMer Logan Todhunter of Williams, the reigning DIII swimmer of the year. Todhunter will likely swim all three butterfly events although, as the national champ in the 200 IM last year, we might see her swim that this weekend. Finally, Williams added first year Stephanie Nguyen who will challenge the field in the backstroke events and will add some pop to their medley relays.
There is an interesting team battle shaping up for second place. The NESCAC is unique in that, in addition to the full suite of the individual and relay events that are competed at the national level, they also swim 50’s in all four strokes, as well as a 1000 free in addition to the 1650. Teams are allowed 24 participants, not the usual 18, putting a premium on depth. Amherst College, second last year, should repeat, but Middlebury, Tufts, and Connecticut College are all strong and traditionally taper very well for this meet. Amherst boasts defending backstroke champ Emily Swett, talented breaststroker Rebecca Kelley, and Allison Merz in the fly. Middlebury swam to a shocking upset victory in last year’s 800 free relay and they can be expected to strive to defend that title. The Conn College Camels, boasting a bevy of talented sprinters, including Sarah Murphy, Erika Fernandes, and newcomer Julia Pielock, should score well in the relays and the sprint events, with the versatile Murphy also expected to do well in the 400 IM or the butterfly events. Tufts, probably the largest team in the NESCAC, will be led by breaststroker Jenny Hu, butterflier Mia Greenwald, and Megan Kono in the distance events.
Others to watch: Bates breaststrokers Catherine Sparks and Amanda Moore as well as sprinter Charlotte Green, a national qualifier last year, Colby sprinter Chelsea Heneghan, Wesleyan sprint/butterflier Cara Colker-Eybel and distance swimmer Rachel Cohen, Middlebury first-years Andie Tibbets and Cori West, and Trinity diver Emily Johnson.
At some point during the meet the three Maine schools, Colby, Bates, and Bowdoin, are likely to entertain the crowd with a unique cheer from Down East. There will be dancing and pink caps in the Middlebury corner. The Williams women are likely to have a choreographed number. In addition to the drama and competition in the water, this is a fun and colorful meet that leaves lasting impressions on the contestants and the fans. Good luck to all the swimmers!