Men’s swimming dominates NESCACs

This weekend, men’s swimming and diving (7-2) looked to defend its incredible eight-year championship streak in the NESCAC tournament. They faced stiff competition from a Tufts University squad that took second by the smallest margin in history last year and an Amherst squad that gave Williams some trouble earlier this year in a 125-118 dual meet Jan. 9.

“It’s good coming into the meet with a history of success,” co-captain Adam Hollander ’10 said. “It helped us get started with that nervous energy that helps us perform at a higher level.”

On Friday, the Ephs wasted no time re-establishing their dominance. By the end of the day, the Ephs, with 740 points, led their closest competition, the Jumbos, by more than 200 points, as Tufts ended the day with 526 points. Competition began with the 200 free relay. The Willams ‘A’ relay squad of Ben Wampler ’12, Paul Dyrkacz ’13, Andrew D’Ignazio ’11 and Graham Righi ’13 managed to snag a victory in a field of strong competitors, posting a national ‘B’ qualifying time of 1:22.63. The Ephs’ large lead came despite not having a swimmer win an individual event all day, although Dyrkacz did place second in the 200 IM with a national ‘B’ qualifying time of 1:53.91. Gary Roberson ’11 and Tom Vieth ’13 continued the Ephs’ dominance of the freestyle events, placing third and fourth, respectively, in the 500 freestyle Friday night. Both men hit the benchmark for ‘B’ cut times in the event.

“Last year we were behind after day one, but this year a combination of new blood from incoming freshman and the return of Ben Wampler really helped us get that day started off strong,” Hollander said.

On Saturday, the men continued to hold their first-place position and even expand on Friday’s lead. Roberson picked up the first Williams individual victory of the tournament in the 1000 freestyle with a time of 9:27.54. John Armstrong ’13 followed just behind in second place with a time of 9:38.00, while DJ Taylor ’13 took fourth in 9:43.73, demonstrating the Ephs’ strength and depth in distance swims.

Other highlights included Dyrkacz taking another second-place finish in the 400 IM while swimming a ‘B’ qualifying time of 4:01.19 in the process. In the same event, John Guiffre ’12 and Chris Corbett ’13 finished third and fourth respectively, both also with ‘B’ qualifying times. Vieth picked up a second place finish in the 200 free, as well with another NCAA ‘B’ cut. By the end of the day, the Ephs still stood well ahead of the field with 1355.5 points. The Jumbos were closest, with 1027 points, followed by the Jeffs, who had racked up 993 points.

Sunday saw the Ephs solidify their win with a mix of strong individual performances and a dominant performance from the 400 freestyle relay squad. Roberson continued his impressive weekend, taking second in the 1650 freestyle with a national ‘B’ qualifying time of 15:45.02. Wampler also built on his success and earned himself a guaranteed spot at NCAAs with his winning time of 44.89 in the 100 freestyle. Meanwhile, Righi placed fourth in the 100 free, earning himself a ‘B’ qualifying time in the process. Immediately after, the Ephs dominated the 200 breaststroke: Dyrkacz out-touched teammate Corbett to place first in a national ‘B’ qualifying time of 2:05.83. Greg McElroy ’12 placed fourth, also earning a ‘B’ qualifying time. In the 200 butterfly, Stuart Horgan ’12 came in a close second, but will continue to compete in NCAAs, as his result was below the ‘B’ cut time.

The men closed out the home meet with one of their strongest showings of the weekend, in the finals for the 400 freestyle relay: The Ephs’ ‘A’ squad, comprising Wampler, Righi, Dyrkacz and Phil Treesh ’13, broke the school record in the event, taking third in just 3:02.87, close behind Middlebury and Amherst’s ‘A’ teams.

Hollander expressed the team’s elation when asked about claiming the conference championship in front of a home crowd. “It felt amazing to have NESCACs at our home pool and be able to carry on the teams winning streak,” he said.

Williams finished with 1937.5 points, clearly defeating closest competitor Tufts, who closed out the weekend with 1452.5 points. Amherst, Middlebury and Hamilton trailed behind the leaders to close out the top five schools in the meet. The men, currently ranked 21st, are now focused on closing the year out strong at NCAAs. A number of Ephs have already qualified for the championship meet and will continue to train in preparation for Div. III NCAAs in Minneapolis, Minn., on March 17-20.