Ephs reclaim NESCAC throne in record-setting fashion

Erica Bucki ’15 took fourth in the 400 IM in 4:34.01 at the NESCAC Championship last weekend at the Samuelson-Muir Pool.
Photo courtesy of Sports Information
Erica Bucki ’15 took fourth in the 400 IM in 4:34.01 at the NESCAC Championship last weekend at the Samuelson-Muir Pool.

Women’s swimming and diving (8-0) hosted the NESCAC Championship at the Samuelson-Muir Pool last weekend, hoping to regain its conference title after losing to rival Amherst last year. After an undefeated season, the Ephs continued their dominance, claiming the NESCAC title by a record-setting margin and with a record point total.

The women started strong on Day One, jumping out to a commanding 190.5-point lead over Middlebury. The 200 freestyle relay was the first win of the evening for Williams, with Faye Sultan ’16, Lauren Jones ’17, Breanna Nguyen ’16 and Sarah Thompson ’15 capturing the title with a time of 1:34.94. The 50-yard events were also successful for the Ephs, who continued to edge their way past the competition. The 500 freestyle was exceptionally strong, with first-place, third-place and fifth-place finishes from Thompson, Jones and Erica Bucki ’15, respectively. The 200 IM brought third, fifth and eighth-place scoring swims from Katie Bennett ’16, Olivia Jackson ’17 and Sofie Pietrantonio ’17.

Another strong event for the women was 1-meter diving, with tri-captain McKenzie Murdoch ’14 finishing second and teammate Michelle Higgins ’15 taking third. The 400 medley relay team of Bennett, Thompson, Olivia Clark ’17 and co-captain Alyssa Levine ’14 set a new pool record on Friday morning but lost in the finals to Amherst.

The Ephs continued to extend their significant lead on the second day of competition, which opened with a third-place finish in the 200 medley relay by the quartet of Clark, Levine, Sultan and Anna Epstein ’16. Finalists in the 400 IM included Megan Pierce ’17, who won the event and set a pool record in the process, Bucki, who finished fourth, and Paige Haller ’16, who nabbed fifth. Thompson and Jones finished first and third, respectively, in the 200 freestyle. Levine continued the impressive swims of the evening, placing second in the 100 butterfly in a time of 56.74. Breanna Nguyen, Clark and Emma Nuzzo ’16 took fourth, fifth and eighth in the 100 breaststroke, respectively. Clark also swam a best time in the 1000 freestyle in the morning heats, outpacing three swimmers in the championship heat and earning a fifth-place finish.

The second day of competition concluded with the 800 freestyle relay and a new pool record of 7:30.53 from the Eph team of Jones, Breanna Nguyen, Pierce and Thompson. At the close of the Saturday sessions, Williams led the competition with 1341 points, followed by Middlebury with 893 and defending champions Amherst with 875. Head Coach Steve Kuster declared that he was “look[ing] for the [women] to finish strong” as they headed into the final day of competition.

The team lived up to Kuster’s expectations on the final evening of competition, cruising to a record-breaking 2007 points, and a 790.5-point lead over runner-up Amherst, a record margin. The women won nearly every event in the Sunday night session, beginning with first-place and second-place finishes in the 1650 freestyle from standouts Thompson and Pierce. Bennett broke the two-minute mark in the 200 backstroke as she took first place in 1:59.22, while teammate Jackson finished in a close third with a time of 2:01.98. Sultan continued the Ephs’ winning streak, taking first in the 100 freestyle. Clark came in a close second in the 200 breaststroke, turning in a time of 2:19.59. The women swept the 200 butterfly event, with Pierce winning and Levine, Haller and Pietrantonio right behind her. Divers Murdoch and Higgins came in first and second on the 3-meter board, with Murdoch setting a pool record in the process. Jones, Jackson, Sultan and Thompson won the 400 freestyle relay in convincing fashion, finalizing the Ephs’ pursuit of their NESCAC title.

Pierce was awarded Rookie of the Meet, while Thompson received Swimmer of the Meet honors and Murdoch was presented with both the Diver of the Meet and 4-year high point awards. Thrilled, Kuster called the final session of the meet “one of our best ever.”

Next up, the divers compete in the Div. III Regional Championships at RPI on Feb. 28 and March 1, while the swimmers wait until March 19 for the NCAA Div. III championships to start in Indianapolis, Ind.