Women’s swim and dive wins 15th straight regional title

Capturing their 15th consecutive regional title, the Ephwomen won the 2002 NESCAC Swimming and Diving Championship with a score of 1,727.5 points this past weekend. Finishing in second place was Amherst (1,571.5) followed by Middlebury (1,467).

“Overall, the meet was fantastic for us,” said Head Coach Steve Kuster, who was honored Sunday as the NESCAC Women’s Swimming Coach of the Year. “We won all ten relays. We had multiple event winners and we had people contributing from all classes.”

The Championship was hosted over the past three days by Williams at the Carl R. Samuelson and Robert B. Muir Pool. Williams captured the first ever NESCAC women’s swimming and diving title last year after recording 13 consecutive New England Championships.

“I think that everyone swam fantastically,” said Cristin Brennan ’02. “It was a really fun meet and is something that I will remember for years.”

The Williams women opened and closed Friday night’s finals by winning the 200-yard medley (1:47.49) and the 800-yard freestyle (7:45.78) relays. In both events, the teams qualified for Nationals and set new NESCAC Championship records.

Swimming on the first relay team were Zibby Stokes ’03, Jessica Yankura ’05, Lindsay Payne ’05 and Katie O’Brien ’05. The 800-yard freestyle relay was won by Brennan, Meredith Olson ’04, Chrissy Milkosky ’04 and Yankura.

The Ephs continued their dominance in relays throughout the meet – never losing a single relay race. Williams won the 400-yard medley relay, qualifying for Nationals and setting a meet record. Swimming on this team were Yankura, Payne, Stokes and Olson.

Scoring points for the Ephwomen as members of the first-place 200-yard freestyle relay team (1:35.78) were Stokes, Olson, O’Brien and Payne. These women teamed up again to win the 400-yard freestyle relay (3:31.79). Their times in both relays set new NESCAC Championship records and qualified them for Nationals.

Brennan, honored as both the NESCAC Championship Swimmer of the Meet and as the NESCAC’s Most Outstanding Swimmer in the Last Four Years, won the 200- (1:53.47), 500- (4:59.59) and 1650-yard (17:13.88) freestyle events with NESCAC Championship record-setting times. In the two-year history of the NESCAC Championships, Brennan never lost a single event.

Brennan was joined in the Championship Finals by Milkosky, who captured eighth place (1:58.94) in the 200-yard freestyle and fourth place (5:12.35) in the 500-yard freestyle events.

Winning five events (two individual and four relay) at the Championship was Olson, who won the 400-yard individual medley with a national qualifying time of 4:33.83. Also swimming in the championship final of this event was Britta Hult ’02, who finished in fifth place (4:40.73).

“It’s awesome winning, with the home crowd behind us,” Olson said.

For a second year in a row, Olson also won the 200-yard individual medley (2:08.27), again qualifying her for Nationals. Also swimming in this event’s championship final was Mary Stranghoener ’05 (2:12.45), who finished in fourth place.

Earning points for the Ephwomen in the 100-yard freestyle championship final were Olson and O’Brien. Hitting the wall a few hundredths of a second after the winner, Olson captured second place (54.42) while O’Brien finished eighth (54.42) out of the 24 swimmers competing.

The Ephwomen picked up a total of 80 team points in the 100-yard butterfly as Stokes won the event (58.68) while Stranghoener and Zan Armstrong ’04 placed fourth (59.44) and eighth (1:00.19), respectively. In the 50-yard butterfly, Stokes finished in second (36.39), while Armstrong came in seventh place (27.53). Stranghoener was the top Williams finisher in the 200-yard butterfly, finishing in second with a national qualifying time of 2:07.19.

Twice setting pool records, setting Championship records and qualifying for nationals in her first NESCAC Championship was Payne, who won the 50-yard breaststroke (29.89) and 100-yard breaststroke (1:04.28). Payne was joined in the championship finals in both events by Anne Mayall ’03, who finished the in fifth place (31.93) and eighth place (1:09.77), respectively.

Payne once again qualified for Nationals and set a NESCAC Championship record by winning the 200-yard breaststroke (2:22.74). Also scoring points for the Ephs in the championship final were Katie Joyce ’05, who finished fifth (2:29.14), and Mayall, who finished sixth (2:29.33).

The 100-yard backstroke was dominated by Ephwomen, who captured the top two places. Yankura won the event in 1:00.05 while Sarah Murchison ’05 hit the touch pad one hundredth of a second later (1:00.06). In the 50-yard backstroke, Yankura finished in second place (28.27) while Murchinson finished in fourth place (28.40).

In the 200-yard backstroke, Murchison finished first (2:07.56). Her preliminary time of 2:07.46 set a new NESCAC Championship record. Following close behind Yankura, who finished third (2:08.30).

In the one-meter diving competition, Rachel Gealy ’04 won the event (390.45) and set a meet record. Gealy was followed by Jae Cody ’03, who finished in third place (336.95). Also in the top 10 was Sara Gilliam ’04, who finished in ninth place (312.45).

“We had a really good time,” said Gealy, who was honored as the championship’s Diver of the Meet. “Finals were really exciting. It was really nice to be on our own boards [at home].”

In addition, the Williams women did exceptionally well in Sunday’s three-meter diving competition. Gealy finished in first place with a score of 459.95. Her preliminary score of 482.85 set new NESCAC conference and NESCAC Championship records.

Also diving well were Cody, who finished in third (400.70), and Gilliam, who finished in fourth (376.10).

Throughout the weekend, the Ephwomen loudly cheered each other on and celebrated event victories before a capacity crowd that at some points reached close to 850 people.

“The excitement on the deck could spark fire on water,” said co-captain Britta Hult ’02. “If only I could capture this moment forever, I would bottle it and place it on my mantle.”

Next weekend, the men’s team will travel to Wesleyan to compete in its NESCAC Championship while the women, who have qualified for Nationals, will continue to train and prepare for their meet at the Miami (OH) University Sports and Recreation Aquatic Center in Oxford, Ohio on March 14-16, 2002.