Despite standing in fifth place at the end of the fall athletic season, the winter season has launched the College to first place in the NACDA Learfield Directors’ Cup competition. The award is given annually to the best all-around athletic program in each of the three NCAA divisions. The College has won the Div. III award 12 years in a row, as well as 14 out of the last 15 years.
The College has tallied 719.5 points over the fall and winter seasons, topping second-place Middlebury’s total of 664 points. Washington University, which held first place at the fall season’s end, stands in third with 649.5 points. Amherst is now in fifth place.
“It’s always fun – it’s an external accolade that we enjoy,” said Lisa Melendy, the College’s newly-appointed athletic director. “It helps position the College positively along with all these other polls that come out … It signals to the outside world that this is a place where we pursue excellence.”
At this time last year, the Ephs stood in first place with 896.75 points. The College has topped the competition at the end of the winter season 11 times in the past 16 years.
Melendy explained that this year’s trajectory is not rare for the College: “If you look at past history, it’s fairly normal for us to not be in first place after the fall and to be in first place or close after the winter,” she said.
Over the course of the winter season, the College amassed 483.5 points, contributing to the fall season’s total of 236 points.
Many teams contributed to the successful season: In their respective sports’ NCAA Div. III championships, men’s basketball and women’s swimming both took third place, men’s swimming tied for fourth and women’s indoor track and field claimed seventh. Additionally, the alpine and nordic ski team finished in 14th place in the NCAA Div. I championships.
“It’s really the number of teams we have available to score points,” Melendy said. “We have wrestling and skiing, which a lot of colleges don’t have. We had great swim finishes, as well as some solid contributions from our track and field and basketball teams.”
Looking toward the spring, Melendy expressed caution toward expecting any sure results. “You can’t predict what’s going to happen,” she said. “If we do well and qualify for NCAA competition … then we will stay in first place.” She mentioned that the College’s crew, track and field and tennis teams usually contribute to the College’s high point value.
Changes in standings from season to season vary greatly by year, according to Melendy, so it is hard to gauge what the rest of the year will look like. “We’ve never won [the Directors’ Cup] the same way,” she said.
Additional reporting by Catherine Gerkis, news editor.