For ten straight years the Men’s Swimming and Diving team have been New England champions, but as of Saturday night it looked like that streak was about to broken. After the second of three days of the New England Championship competition at the Wesleyan pool, the Ephs were in second place down 42 points to Amherst. On the final day of the meet, in one of the most thrilling finishes ever, Williams was able to pull through and narrowly defeat Amherst by five points.
The Ephs were down 8.5 points after the first day of competition and were well within striking distance of the Amherst Lord Jeffs. Cyrus King ’00 and Geoff Allen ’01 combined to finish first and third respectively in the in the 100-yard backstroke. King’s time of 1:50.06 set a Wesleyan pool record and automatically qualified him for Division III Nationals. Allen’s time of 1:54.35 made the consideration cut for Nationals.
The 200-yard freestyle relay team consisting of Tom Pickard ’01, Alex Poole ’00, John Cole ’00 and Jamie Mackay ’01 finished sixth with a time of 1:26.37. The 500-yard freestyle saw Mike Hodel ’99 and Pat Burton ’00 finish seventh and eighth respectively in times of 4:47.13 and 4:50.21. In the 50-yard breaststroke, Bevan Londergan captured sixth place points with a time of 27.64. Later Pickard finished in eighth place in the 50-yard freestyle (21.82).
Bryan Strickler had a terrific swim in the 200 IM; he finished fourth and made the consideration cut for Nationals. The first day of competition was finished off with the 400-yard medley relay. The Eph team of King, Don Wood ’00, Jason Frink ’00, and Allen took third with a time of 3:29.80, also a national consideration cut. In the diving competition, Chris Wendell ‘00 made an impressive showing, finishing fourth in the one meter with a score of 437.55.
The Ephs started the second day of competition with an excellent showing in the 200-yard medley relay as the team of King, Wood, Co-captain Tom Gratian ‘98, and Pickard finished second with a National consideration cut time of 1:35.89. In the 400 IM Frink placed a strong fifth with a time of 4:15.03. In the 200-yard freestyle, Hodel added another fifth place finish in a time of 1:43.99. Again, the backstroke tandem of King and Allen placed first and third respectively in the 50-yard event. King’s time of 51.32 set the meet and pool records and was a national qualifying time.
As the meet progressed Bevin Londergan ‘00, Wood, and Strickler placed strongly in the 100-yard breaststroke finishing fourth, fifth, and seventh respectively in times of 1:00.00, 1:00.42, and 1:00.77. These results earned the Ephs a close second behind Amherst going into the final event of the evening, the 800-yard freestyle relay. However, the Williams team was disqualified for a false start. The disqualification was a difficult way to end the night, which had been filled with impressive performances. It placed the team 42 points behind Amherst going into the final day of competition.
On the final day, the Ephs came out and gave everything they had. They never quit and the disqualification the night before only seemed to bring them closer together. “The team had never been as together as we were after that disqualification,” Co-captain Aran Degenhart ‘98 said. “Amherst thought they had us, but it only strengthened everyone on the team. Each person was swimming with the strength of the whole team.”
That certainly seemed to be the case, as Williams had to defeat Amherst in basically every event in order to win.
Highlights of the third day for the Ephs were when King, adding to his 100-yard and 200-yard backstroke titles, won the 1650-yard freestyle in a National consideration cut time of 16:17.36. In the same event Burton finished third (16:17.36) narrowly beating an Amherst swimmer while Mike Hodel took seventh place.
Another important event for the Ephs was the 200-yard breaststroke. Brian Strickler ‘01 surprised everyone with his third place finish in 2:10.37. Strickler was followed closely by Wood, who took fifth and Londergan, who finished seventh.
Pickard finished fifth in the 100-yard IM securing some crucial points for the Ephs in the sprint events. Wendell gained some more points for the Ephs with his fourth place finish on the three-meter board with a score of 412.63 points.
The winner of the meet would be determined in the final event, 400-yard freestyle relay. Amherst had to come up with a couple big team victories over Williams in order to score enough points to win. However, the Lord Jeffs could not muster enough strength and the Williams team of Hodel, Allen, Mackay and King came in two-tenths of a second ahead of the Amherst team to secure second place and the win.
“The first event set the tone,” Gratian said. “Jamie Mackay won [his] heat in the 100 free. Burton out-touched the Amherst swimmer in the last lap of the mile event. Then we had back to back successful events in the 200 breast and the 200 fly. And then of course, the 400 free relay that won it for us.”
The Men’s Swimming and Diving team battled through adversity in order to capture its eleventh New England Championship in a row. They never gave up and stayed together throughout the entire competition. The season is now over for a number of the men, but some continue to train for the National meet which will take place in St. Louis in three weeks.