Ephs race past conference rivals, speed to second at NESCACs

Women’s swimming (9-1) claimed second place at the NESCAC Championships last weekend. For the first time in the title’s 12 years of existence, the women did not capture the NESCAC crown, but the Ephs boasted numerous best times, top-eight finishes and Div. III NCAA qualifiers. Amherst took home the conference title.

After three days and six sessions of swimming, the women took center stage on Sunday night in the Greason Aquatic Center at Bowdoin. In the final event of the 2013 NESCAC meet, the 400 freestyle relay, the team put on a fantastic show of determination and fast swimming. Swimming in the ‘B’ final, a carefully crafted combination of Tess Vorselen ’15, Catherine Treesh ’15, Stephanie Nguyen ’14 and Emma Nuzzo ’16 out-touched Amherst for the win, with the help of Nuzzo’s impressive last leg. In the much anticipated ‘A’ final, the fearsome foursome of Faye Sultan ’16, Sarah Thompson ’15, Kelsey Roggensack ’13 and co-captain Caroline Wilson ’13 took the lead. Once again, the race came down to the last leg of the relay, where Wilson charged to the wall with a blistering time of 49.97. The relay set a pool record of 3:26.23 and ended the meet on a characteristically decisive note.

Despite the disappointing finish, last weekend’s NESCAC championship was full of high points for the women’s team. The rookie class once again showed its depth, making it to the podium in event after event. Anna Epstein ’16 had several stand-out swims, including second place in the 50 butterfly and second in the 50 backstroke. Katie Bennett ’16 likewise took second in the 100 and 200 backstroke events, while Paige Haller ’16 placed fifth in the 200 butterfly and seventh in the 400 IM.

Not to be outdone, the sophomore class did their part in the close fight with Amherst. Erica Bucki ’15 had a fantastic meet, posting lifetime best times in the 500 freestyle and 400 IM, in which she placed 11th and fifth, respectively. Thompson lead the charge with second-place finishes in the 200 and 500 freestyle and an impressive first-place finish in the mile, which earned her the ‘A’ qualifying time for Div. III NCAAs.

Diver Michelle Higgins ’15 finished the weekend strong with a first place finish on the three-meter board, just defeating an Amherst diver and closely followed by Mackenzie Murdoch ’14 in third. Aly Levine ’14 and Nguyen also played their part last weekend. Levine had an exciting second-place finish in the 100 butterfly, as well as sixth in the 200 butterfly, while Nguyen rounded out the top heat of the 200 backstroke with a seventh-place finish.

The famously talented senior class finished their last NESCACs with an undisputable bang. Wilson and Kate O’Leary ’13 both got the ‘A’ qualifying time in the 400 IM, and KC Ha ’13 had a great showing across multiple butterfly events. Roggensack claimed a fourth-place finish in the 200 butterfly alongside four of her teammates. Co-captain Liz Visconti ’13 shined in the 50 breaststroke with a quick, third-place finish. Distance pro Becca Maher ’13 had a lifetime best in the 500 freestyle (5:02.05) and a fourth-place finish in the grueling 1000 freestyle, while Bryn Dunbar ’13 rounded out her final season with a series of great swims in the sprint freestyle events. The Class of 2013 made it clear that they will not soon be forgotten.

The Div. III NCAA squad, which will be composed of a subset of the women’s team, will be finalized soon, and the women continuing their season will do so with a newfound determination to defeat Amherst when they meet again in Texas. Until then, they will celebrate an exhausting and rewarding NESCAC weekend, and the triumphant end to an undefeated conference season.

“The loss was definitely unexpected, but it doesn’t reflect our team’s weekend at all,” Wilson said. “Everyone on our team stepped up and gave 110 percent even when we started to slip into second. The amount of energy and enthusiasm brought by our team was definitely unmatched by any other team in the NESCAC. We had girls with some incredible times and swims and we have nothing to be disappointed about. We also had a large number of girls qualify for NCAAs throughout the meet, so we will have over half our NESCAC team represented in Texas. I think [last] weekend has made us fired up to place out Amherst there. Amherst did swim incredibly, but it was completely out of our control. They just had an outlier meet. But it doesn’t reflect on the spirit and swims our team brough to the meet.”

Div. III NCAAs will be held on March 20 to 23 at the Conroe Natatorium in Shenandoah, Tex., where the Ephs will look to outshine the Jeffs.