Men’s swimming charges to 4th at NCAAs

Men’s swimming and diving swam to a fourth-place finish at the Div. III NCAA Championships on March 23-26 in Knoxville, Tenn. The NESCAC champions surged from sixth place on the third day of competition to fourth overall by the final day. Denison overcame a three-day Kenyon lead to take home the championship title.

The first day saw a monstrous performance from Paul Dyrkacz ’13 as he won the national title in the 200 individual medley. Dyrkacz smashed the school record in the event by two seconds, scorching to a time of 1:49.10 on his way to his first national title. Co-captain Gary Roberson ’11 placed fourth overall in the 500 freestyle, improving on his preliminary morning swim by over a second to finish in a time of 4.26:36. The men finished the first day in fourth, with Kenyon in first.

On March 24, Dyrkacz and Roberson continued their dominant performances, each taking home national titles. After qualifying in seventh, Dyrkacz overcame his preliminary swim and won his second title of the week in the 400 individual medley. Dyrkacz finished in a time of 3:52.97, five seconds faster than his preliminary swim. Roberson broke a school record on his way to a national title in the 200 freestyle, finishing in 1:37.51. The men dropped down to fifth by the end of the day, with Kenyon again leading the pack.

The 800 freestyle relay was the Ephs’ top finish on March 25. Dyrkacz, Roberson, DJ Taylor ’13 and Tom Vieth ’13 combined for sixth in the event, adding points to the Ephs’ total heading into the final day of competition. The men finished the relay in 6:40.44, breaking the school record for the event by three seconds. Martin Soderstrom ’14 also broke a Williams record, taking home 12th in the 100 breaststroke in a time of 56.32. The men’s performance placed them sixth overall. Kenyon still held on to a narrow first-place lead.

On the final day of racing, the 400 relay crushed the competition to improve the Ephs’ standing in the tournament. Dyrkacz, Vieth, Roberson and Ben Wampler ’11 placed sixth in the relay, compiling a time of 3:00.44 to edge fifth-place MIT. Dyrkacz then continued his impressive performances with a fourth-place swim in the 200 breaststroke. “Paul had one of the best years probably in the history of the men’s team,” Head Coach Steve Kuster said. “I’ve never had a two-time NCAA men’s champion in my 12 years.”

Chris Corbett ’13 turned in a lifetime-best in the 200 breaststroke to crack the championship final. He went on to finish eighth in a time of 2:04.76. “Chris had a very good first event but just missed scoring,” Kuster said. “His second event wasn’t as good as he had hoped for, and I think he decided that the 200 breast was time to put it all together. He had a great race and snuck into top eight for his first ever night swim at NCAAs.”

Wampler also earned points for the men, swimming to fifth place in the 100 freestyle. Roberson brought home 10th in the mile with a time of 15:48.42.

The men’s strong final day pushed them ahead of MIT and the team secured a fourth-place finish. “The last day efforts were great,” Kuster said. “It’s a great feeling to know we had a great meet as a team and brought home a trophy. It was a great way to finish the season and send off the seniors.” Kuster credited some strong performances from the sophomores with giving the men an edge in the competition. “I think the sophomores really came of age this year, and the seniors were able to go out on a very, very strong note,” he said. The men and women combined to break 19 school records at NCAAs and take third overall. The men will graduate Worth Macdonald ’11, David Thompson ’11, co-captain Andrew D’Ignazio ’11, Roberson and Wampler this year. “We have a very small senior class, but their quality in the water will certainly be hard to replace,” Kuster said. “What I think will be even harder to replace is the quality of their character. It is a class of very fine young men.”