Men’s swimming clinches conference crown

Men’s swimming and diving (6 -2) capped its regular season with a rousing victory in last weekend’s NESCAC Championships, edging runner-up Amherst 2011-1959 for the team’s 10th consecutive conference title.

Rookie Thad Ricotta ’15 contributed to the victory with an impressive win in the 200 butterfly, provisionally qualifying in 1:50.98.
Rookie Thad Ricotta ’15 contributed to the victory with an impressive win in the 200 butterfly, provisionally qualifying in 1:50.98. Photo courtesy of sports information

The three-day event, which Williams hosted, saw the Ephs lead at the end of Day One and Day Two, only to fall behind by as many as 75 points on the final day before surging back to claim the victory.

The Ephs earned a string of individual honors following their victory. Paul Dyrkacz ’13 was named Swimmer of the Meet after claiming three individual titles and three relay titles, Alex Long ’12 was named four-year high point diver for his strong performance over the course of his career – in which he was a podium finisher in both the one-meter and three-meter dives all four years – and Head Coach Steve Kuster was named NESCAC Coach of the Year for the third time in four years.

On Day Three, the Ephs started off the competition with a 1414.5-1362 lead over the Jeffs. It proved to be all the men could do to maintain their lead – but two victories from Dyrkacz and Thad Ricotta ’15, as well as stellar performances up and down the team, proved to be enough to hold off the Jeffs.

Dyrkacz broke his own NESCAC record with his performance in the 200 breast, finishing in an incredible 1:59.7, while Ricotta won the 200 butterfly in a provisional qualifying time of 1:50.98.

Saturday saw Williams improve on the previous day’s performance, as the team took four victories en route to extending its lead to 52.5 points over Amherst at the close of the day. Rookie Chris Gronbeck ’15 took the first title of the day for Williams, claiming the 1000-meter freestyle in a provisional NCAA-qualifying time of 9:28.92 – an improvement of over 15 seconds from his previous season best. Dyrkacz locked up his second individual title, taking the 400 IM for the second consecutive year, this time in a pool record and automatic NCAA-qualifying time of 3:55.44; Tom Vieth ’13 followed suit with an individual title in the 200 free, touching the wall with an automatic NCAA-qualifying 1:38.91.

For the second consecutive day, the Ephs closed the evening’s proceedings with a relay victory, this time in the 800 free, as the team of Gronbeck, Dyrkacz, Vieth and Chris Weihs ’15 stole the show with a provisional qualifying time of 6:43.83.

The Ephs opened NESCACs on Friday by building a solid foundation for the coming days. The highlights of Day One included three Williams victories and two pool record-breaking performances. In the 200-meter freestyle relay, Vieth, Dyrkacz, Alexander Nanda ’15 and Daeus Jorento ’13 out-stroked their Bowdoin and Amherst rivals by over a second to take the win in a pool-record tying 1:21.99. Later, Dyrkacz claimed his first individual title of the weekend in the 200 IM, setting the pool record with a time of 1:50.02.

In the final event of the day, the team of Dyrkacz, Vieth, Ricotta and DJ Taylor ’13 clocked a time of 3:22.66 in the 400 IM relay, smashing the 18-year-old pool record to defeat the rival team and to give Williams a slim 710-692.5 advantage over Amherst heading into Day Two.

“Winning NESCACs for the 10th straight year feels great. We have a saying on the team that tradition never graduates, and we kept the tradition alive this weekend,” Ryan Marrano ’12 said of the victory.

The 2011-1959 victory caps Williams’ season prior to Div. III NCAAs. The national championships will be held in Indianapolis beginning on March 21.