Women’s swimming dominates foes for NESCAC championship

After three days of noteworthy performances, women’s swimming and diving (8-1) clinched its 10th straight NESCAC title at Middlebury this weekend, finishing with an all-time high score for Williams teams at NESCACs with 1954 points. The women bettered last season’s record, when the team captured the NESCAC title by the then-largest point margin in history, besting runner-up Amherst 1827.5 to 1429.5. This year, the Ephs came into the meet looking for personal best results as well as a continuation of their NESCAC championship streak.

The conclusion of Friday’s races found Williams in the driver’s seat with 663.5 points on the board, leading Amherst (518.5), Tufts (443.5) and Middlebury (432) all by comfortable margins.

Williams’ 200 freestyle relay team, composed of Logan Todhunter ’12, Bryn Dunbar ’13, Sophia Sequeria ’10 and Katharine O’Leary ’13, started the weekend off well, securing the NESCAC title in a time of 1:41.27. Lisa Cucolo ’10 and Liz Visconti ’13 kept the momentum going, finishing second and third, respectively, in the 50 breaststroke. Todhunter continued to rack up points for the Ephs with a victory in the 50 butterfly, swimming the race in a pool-record time of 25.27.

Caroline Wilson ’13 then turned in a new Williams record of 4:52.57 in the 500 freestyle, coming in second to Amherst’s Kendra Stern. Wilson’s time hit the benchmark for an NCAA ‘A’ qualifying time.

In the 200 individual medley, Ellen Ramsey ’11 picked up a NESCAC title in just 2:05.98. Shortly afterwards, Ramsey and teammates Dunbar, Cucolo and Kelsey Roggensack ’13, composing the 400 medley relay Williams ‘B’ team, snatched up another Eph victory. The Williams ‘B’ team outswam every team in the ‘A’ relays except for the Williams ‘A’ squad of Cucolo, Todhunter, Wilson and KC Ha ’13, which is ranked in the top five nationally. The Ephs would have gone 1-2 in the ‘A’ division if the ‘B’ team had been allowed to move up.

Divers Kera McClelland ’10 and Hannah Wilson ’12 also added to the success of the Ephs’ first day with top eight finishes.

On Saturday, the women took the opportunity to extend their lead to 1337.5 over Amherst’s 1000.5. Middlebury and Tufts trailed far behind with 836 and 796.5 points, respectively.

Ephs took every place from first to fifth in the 400 individual medley: Wilson led the way with her winning time of 4:28.99, while Roggensack, O’Leary, Bonnie Patchen ’12 and Ellen Ramsey ’11 followed, in that order. The top four women swam the race in NCAA ‘A’ qualifying times, while Ramsey swam it in a ‘B’ qualifying time.

The team’s depth was evident in the 200 medley relay, in which Williams’ ‘A’ team, ranked sixth going into competition, took first in 1:46.41. Ha, Visconti, Todhunter and Carolyn Geller ’12 swam to victory in the event. The Williams ‘B’ team, made up of Ramsey, Cucolo, Patchen and Dunbar, went into the ‘B’ race ranked tenth and came out in first with a time of 1:47.29.

The impressive results kept coming throughout the day: Todhunter and Ha finished 1-2 in the 100 fly. Williams also came in 1-2-4 in the 100 breaststroke, as Cuculo claimed her first NESCAC title with Visconti and co-captain Christina Metcalf ’10 close behind. The Ephs also finished four women – Geller, Jillian Hancock ’11, co-captain Sophia Sequiera ’10 and Joanna Hoffman ’10 – in the top eight of the 200 free. Ramsey topped the competition in the 200 individual medley in a scorching 2:06.25, while Todhunter set yet another pool record, resetting Middlebury’s standard to 56.58 in the 100 butterfly.

Sunday saw the team round out day three with a bang, bringing its point total up to 1954 to trounce runner-up Amherst by a 578 point margin.

In the first race of the day, the 1650 freestyle, Wilson set the tone by shattering the Middlebury pool record, the NESCAC meet record and the Williams record in an outstanding 16:57.22. Metcalf and Ha were up next, taking the NESCAC titles in the 200 breaststroke and 200 butterfly respectively. Wilson, O’Leary, Geller and Hancock swam a strong 3:30.43 in the 400 freestyle relay to earn another first place finish for the Ephs.

Even Head Coach Steve Kuster, NESCAC Coach of the Year, seemed pleasantly surprised by his team’s domination of the weekend’s competition. “[The women] worked well together,” Kuster said. “They were motivated, they put in the work all season and [they] swam relaxed and confidently for the most part. Certainly the team depth was key. I knew we had a deep team, but I don’t think I really realized the scope of it until this weekend.”

The Ephs’ championship title will not keep them from continuing to train hard in preparation for NCAAs. A number of swimmers have already qualified for NCAAs throughout the season. “The women had a goal to get as many people to NCAAs as possible,” Kuster said. “We have a solid group going, but will be waiting for another week or so to find out about several more who are hopeful that they swam fast enough to qualify.”

Williams will continue to prepare at home until March 17, when the qualifying swimmers will travel to Minneapolis, Minn., for the four-day NCAA Div. III Championships.

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