Men’s swimming wins conference crown

Men’s swimming and diving claimed its seventh NESCAC championship in eight years at the Middlebury Natatorium on Sunday afternoon. Finishing with a notable score of 1860.5 points, the Ephs beat out the second-place Jumbos by 371 and the Jeffs by 461.5. Not only did the Ephs claim 16 victories out of the 22 events, but they qualified 11 individuals for the NCAA championship meet and claimed several pool and school records.

Given that the team had lost several fast sprinters from last year, the Ephs began the meet with a sour taste in their mouths when they placed fifth in the 200 freestyle relay – the first time in two years that Williams had lost a relay of any kind at the NESCAC championships. This gave some extra fire to Tyler Bonewell ’09, who then claimed the 50 breaststroke with a new NESCAC record of 26.18.

Norman Scott ’09 followed that performance by breaking his own school and meet record with a time of 22.38 in the 50 butterfly. Gary Roberson ’11, Michael Kirwan ’08 and David Lebovitz ’09 led the way in the 500 freestyle, claiming third, fifth and sixth places respectively. Worth MacDonald ’11 was the lone representative for the Ephs in the 50 backstroke, tying for sixth place.

In one of the most impressive showings of the weekend, Henry Felker ’08, Chris Millen ’08, Thatcher Heumann ’09 and co-captain Ben Bullitt ’08 claimed the top four spots in the 200 IM, each attaining NCAA B-cut consideration. Ben Wampler ’11 followed this by placing third in the 50 freestyle with a solid national B-cut time of 20.85. In the 1-m diving Chris Milliken ’10 placed fifth.

The first day of NESCACs concluded with an incredible duel between Middlebury and Williams in the 400 medley relay. The race came down to the last five yards with Wampler out-touching the Middlebury swimmer, finishing in 4:24.83.

The second day again started with a hiccup that inspired the Ephs for the rest of the day. In the B-heat of the 200 medley relay, the lineup of MacDonald, Felker, Tim Ryan ’09 and Andrew D’Ignazio ’11 got disqualified when MacDonald struggled in his finish and Felker left the block too early. The A-team of Scott, Bonewell, Alex Wentworth-Ping ’08 and Wampler had another photo-finish win against Middlebury, earning a national A-cut and pool record time of 1:32.38. Gary Roberson ’11 followed with a win in the 1000 freestyle.
The 400 yard IM showcased another trio of Williams talent, with Millen leading the way in a time of 4:04.83, followed by Bullitt in third and Heumann in fourth. Then Eddie Layng ’10 energized the crowd with his 52.8 second performance in the 100 butterfly. Despite this, Scott could not duplicate his record-setting pace from the morning prelims and got narrowly touched out by John Dillon of Middlebury. Ryan and Wentworth-Ping also raced to fourth and sixth place finishes, respectively, in the event.

Kirwan and Lebovitz led the way for the Ephs in the 200 freestyle, placing fourth and seventh. This was followed by a dominating 1-2 finish in the 100 breaststroke by Felker and Bonewell. The Ephs ended the day with an impressive 800 freestyle relay composed of Millen, Lebovitz, Kirwan and Roberson to place first with a winning B-cut consideration time of 6:49.16.

Williams’ best performances came in the third and final day of the championships. Roberson, Kirwan, Jeremy Goldstein ’09 and David Thompson ’11 each paced their way to impressive swims in the 1650 freestyle, with Roberson taking the event crown. He was followed by Kirwan in fifth, Goldstein in eighth and Thompson finishing ninth.

Bullitt claimed his first event title of his career with a near two-second victory in the 200 backstroke, leading three other Williams swimmers – Lebovitz, Jordan Hollander ’10 and MacDonald – who all also had solid swims. Both Bonewell and Felker left the rest of the competition in their wake in the 200 breaststroke, placing first and second, respectively. Bonewell had broken the oldest school record in the morning prelims session with a national A-cut time of 2:02.76, putting him second in the country for that event.

The 200 butterfly final showcased a lot of purple and gold with a record six of the top eight finishers coming from Williams. Scott led the way with a new NESCAC record of 1:49.81, followed by Millen in third, Wentworth-Ping in fourth, Ryan in sixth, Layng in seventh and Heumann finishing eighth. Scott’s time ranks him first in the country for the 200 butterfly. The final relay team of Millen, Ryan, Kirwan and Wampler placed third with a B-cut time of 3:07.18

The meet was capped off when Bonewell was named Swimmer of the Meet for his record-setting swims in the breaststroke events and also for his pool-record-setting performance in the 200 IM.

Co-captian Bullitt was pleased with how the team performed. “This way just a great meet for a lot of people,” Bullitt said. “We qualified a bunch of people for nationals and had tons of best times. You can’t ask for much more than that.”

After winning their sixth straight NESCAC championship, eleven men’s swimmers will travel to the NCAA Div. III championship meet in Ohio later this month.