Women’s swim/dive takes 2nd at NCAAs, highest in Eph history

Women’s swim and dive has a tradition of excellence. The team has won over 100 consecutive dual meets and numerous NESCAC championships. But, this past weekend, the women proved they were a force to be reckoned with, even at the national level. The women finished second, the best finish in the team’s history.

The women finished with 350 points behind Kenyon’s 560.5. Emory finished in third with 298 points.

Many Ephs were recognized for their outstanding achievements this weekend. Head Coach Steve Kuster was awarded Swim Coach of the Year. Kit Callahan Koch was recognized as Diving Coach of the Year. Rachel Gealy ’04 was the NCAA Diver of the Year.

Co-captain Zibby Stokes ’03 was thrilled with this team’s performance. “To have the swimming coach of the year, the diving coach of the year, and the diver of the year all on one team is a pretty amazing feat,” Stokes said. ”I think the thing that is most exciting about this meet is that year, we got second but…we enjoyed every minute of it and that shows in our performances.”

Kuster was speechless after the meet. “It was an absolutely awesome weekend,” Kuster said. “Everyone contributed, everyone scored. It was fantastic.”

The Ephs got off to a strong start on Thursday, placing well in the two relays. Finishing fourth in the 200 freestyle relay of Meredith Olson ’04, Katie O’Brien ’05, Lindsay Payne ’05 and Zibby Stokes ’03 (1:36.34 ) and second in the 400 medley relay of Jess Yankura ’05, Payne, Stokes and Olson (3:49.42 ), the Ephs picked up a lot of points in these events.

Individually, the Ephs also placed well on Thursday. Meredith Olson ’04 and Mary Stranghoener ’05 finished fourteenth and sixteenth, respectively, in the 200 individual medley. In the diving events, Gealy finished fifth on the one-meter, with Caroline Crocker ’03 following in seventh.

The Ephs were in second place after Thursday’s events and were determined to hold on to it. “We just got stronger everyday,” Kuster said.

Stokes agrees. “What an amazing meet.  I went into this weekend expecting to get fourth, hoping to maybe get third but never dreamed of getting second,” Stokes said. ”Our team started off well and just kept building on our first session to finish out the meet with some great performances.”

On Friday, the Ephs stepped up and finished second in the 200 medley relay of Yankura, Payne, Stokes and Olson and eighth in the 800 freestyle relay of Lauren Edmondson ’06, Tricia Chambers ’06, Olson and Yankura.

Just like on Thursday, the Ephs swam well individually and picked up additional points. Linday Payne ’05 is now a two-time national champion in the 100 breast, as she finished first by a second in the event.

Stokes finished eighth in the 100 butterfly. Olson swam an unbelievable 200 freestyle, finishing fourth in a competitive event with a time of 1:52.84. The 100 backstroke was a particularly strong event for the Ephs. Meghan Faughnan ’06 finished third and Jess Yankura ’05 placed 15th.

At the end of the day on Friday, the Ephs were still in second by a mere 16 points. The Ephs knew they could hold onto this impressive finish if they were ready to step it up on Saturday.

Saturday was probably the strongest day for the Ephs. The Ephs scored well in all of Saturday’s events, comfortably securing enough points for second.

Notably, the Ephs finished well in the 200 backstroke, picking up a large number of points. Faughnan finished second with a time of 2:02.26 and Yankura won the consolation heat, finishing ninth.

Payne finished second in a close race in the 200 breaststroke. Olson swam another competitive event – the 100 free – and finished 13nth in the consolation heat. Stranghoener placed eight in the 200 butterfly with a time of 2:07.2.

The Ephs came in at ninth place in the 400 freestyle relayed comprised of Katie O’Brien ’05, Olson, Stokes and Payne.

The 3-meter diving event was probably the most successful event for the Ephs, who swept first and second in the event. Caroline Crocker finished first with a score of 456.5. Teammate Rachel Gealy trailed by a point, finishing second with a final score of 455.25.

Kuster is pleased with his team’s performance this weekend. The girls rallied, had fun and swam well. For Kuster, the entire weekend was comprised of more than just swimming and diving.

“This weekend was just a great experience,” Kuster said. “It was a lot of fun and a good weekend.”

This meet also marks the completion of this swim season. This year’s team assured its place in Williams history by not only placing the highest ever at NCAAs but by securing the 100th consecutive victory for the team – a streak that began under founder and former Head Coach Carl Samuelson.

“Although I can’t believe that my swimming career is over, I can’t imagine wanting it to end any differently,” Stokes said. “I am so proud of this team and what we accomplished, both at nationals and throughout the entire season.”

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