Women’s swimming earns NESCAC title

Women’s swimming and diving claimed its eighth consecutive NESCAC championship last weekend. Competing at Wesleyan, the team won six events and finished with an impressive 1853 points, 371.5 more than second-place Middlebury and 424.5 more than third-place Amherst.

The Ephs’ 10 relay squads placed in the top three throughout the weekend, plus 44 individuals earned top-eight finishes in the individual swimming events. This compares to 25 for Middlebury and 23 for Amherst. By the end of the weekend, 11 Williams swimmers had obtained national consideration times.

The first day set the tone for the winning weekend. In the preliminaries on Friday, Olivia Card-Childers ’11 surprised everyone, including herself, with an incredible school-record-setting time of 27.17 in the 50 backstroke, vaulting her from a relative unknown in the event to the favorite. Though she was unable to claim the victory during the night session – she was touched out in a close race – she was able to claim the first victory for Williams by winning the 50 freestyle with a National B-cut consideration time of 24.05. Card-Childers was also a part of the 200 freestyle relay team of Lisa Cucolo ’10, Sophia Sequeira ’10 and Nancy McInerney ’11, which placed third with a National B-cut consideration time of 1:37.23.

Not to be outdone on the day were fellow first-year swimmers Ellen Ramsey ’11 and Ryan McChesney ’11. McChesney led the way in the 500 freestyle with a National B-cut consideration time of 5:03.25, placing her third in the event.

Four Williams swimmers gained national consideration in the 200 IM. Ramsey led the pack with a national automatic qualifying time of 2:06.10. She was followed closely by Crissy Haley ’08 (2:08.11), co-captain Michelle Kurkul ’08 (2:08.85) and Lisa Cucolo ’10 (2:10.74). By the time the 400 medley relay team of co-captain Jenna Barbary ’08, Card-Childers, Haley and Sequiera finished third with a time of 3:55.85, the Ephs had established a considerable 164.5 point lead in the first nine events.

The times only improved as the meet continued. On the second day, the 200 medley relay team of Courtney Asher ’09, Card-Childers, McInerney and Cucolo stunned their Middlebury opponents to win the first event of the day with yet another National B-cut consideration time. McChesney followed this success with some of her own by snatching the 1000 freestyle crown from three-time defending champion Sara Cowie.

Despite a nagging illness, Amanda Nicholson ’09 won the 400 IM, setting a NESCAC conference meet record with a time of 4:26.03, an automatic NCAA qualifying time. She was followed by Ramsey and Haley, who placed second and third respectively, with two more A-cut times, and by Kurkul who placed fifth with another B-cut.

McInerney and Ann Marie Zollo ’09 continued the trend of B-cuts in the 100 butterfly with times of 58.31 and 58.54, respectively, while Asher raced to third place in the 100 breaststroke with a B-cut of her own.

Other impressive swims on the day came from senior Julia Kropp ’08 and Lisa Chu ’10, who both dropped substantial amounts of time in each of their swims in the 400 IM. The Ephs finished the night on a high note as the 800 freestyle relay team of Christina Metcalf ’10, Sequeira, McChesney and Ramsey placed second with a solid National B-cut time of 7:41.80.

Williams dominated the meet in the final day and several swims left spectators awestruck. After her victory in the 1000 freestyle, most expected McChesney to perform well in the 1650 freestyle. As it turned out, she left the competition in her wake, winning the event with an automatic qualifying time of 17:17.67, 14 seconds ahead of her nearest competitor. Mary Wilson Molen ’09 also had an impressive swim in the 1650 with a B-cut time of 17:37.17, which placed her in fourth.

Nicholson and Ramsey teamed up yet again in the 200 backstroke, placing second and third with two more national consideration times. In perhaps the closest and most exciting race of the weekend, Kurkul came from behind on the last 25 yards to deny Colby’s All-American Kelly Norsworthy a repeat NESCAC title in the 200 breaststroke. Metcalf also had an impressive swim in the same event to place third, with less than seven-tenths of a second separating her from her teammate Kurkul.

Haley and Zollo teamed up in the 200 butterfly to claim second and third with two more solid national consideration times. To conclude the meet, the 400 freestyle relay team of McChesney, Sequeira, Card-Childers and Jillian Hancock ’11 placed third.

Head Coach Steven Kuster, who at the meet was named NESCAC Coach of the Year, was elated with the women’s performance in the championships. “This was an unbelievable meet,” he said. “Everything I asked from these women, they gave me – every session, every day – and then some.”

Sixteen members of the team will prepare to go on to compete in the NCAA Div. III championship meet, being held in Miami University in Ohio, next month.

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