Women’s swimming and diving earns silver at Nationals

On March 18, women’s swimming and diving finished second at the NCAA Div. III National Championships at the Conroe ISD Natatorium in Shenandoah, Texas.

The meet began on March 15, and the first event of the session was the 500 freestyle. In the championship final, tri-captain Lauren Jones ’17 finished eighth in four minutes, 59.92 seconds. Alison McNamara ’19 touched for 10th in the consolation final in 4:53.76. Next was the 200 individual medley, in which Olivia Jackson ’17 earned second with a personal best of 2:01.49.

In the most notable performance of the evening, Emma Waddell ’18 stole the show in the 50 freestyle, winning with a meet record of 22.69 seconds.

On the diving boards, tri-captain Ariana Ross ’17 placed eighth in the 3-meter board with a final score of 426.95. The evening concluded with the 200 medley relay. The team of Jackson, Caroline White ’20, Maia Hare ’19 and Waddell came in third, just behind Denison, with a time of 1:41.60. 

Day Two of competition began with the 200 freestyle relay, in which Waddell, Delaney Smith ’18, Jackson and Jones placed second with an overall time of 1:32.90. The success continued with the first individual event of the session, the 400 individual medley. Megan Pierce ’17 stole the show, winning by almost three seconds with a personal best of 4:15.71. 

Waddell followed in the 100 butterfly with another victory and her second title of the meet in a time of 53.48.

In the 200 freestyle, Jones finished in seventh place with a time of 1:49.90. Jackson, White, Waddell and Jones rounded off another successful finals session by securing silver in the 400 medley relay with a time of 3:40.57, one second behind first-place Emory. 

On March 17, the women held on to the second-place position they had maintained since the beginning of the meet. The session began with the 200 butterfly in which Pierce claimed another national title with a lifetime best of 1:59.76. Veronica Wolff ’20 finished just behind Pierce with a time of 2:01.77 for fourth place. In the next event, the 100 backstroke, Jackson kept the momentum going with a fourth-place finish and a time of 55.25.

The 100 breaststroke followed, and White earned fifth with a time of 1:02.77 in an extremely close race. On the 1-meter board, Ross finished her outstanding career on a positive note, taking ninth place with a total score of 410.70.

The evening concluded with the 800 freestyle relay, a favorite for the women. The team of Madeline Wessell ’20, McNamara, Pierce and Jones finished fifth with a time of 7:22.47, less than half a second behind Chicago.

Day Four was full of team spirit and fast swimming, an exciting conclusion to the women’s season.

It began with the 1650 freestyle, the longest event of the week. The Ephs notched two top-eight finishes in the event: Pierce concluded her impressive swimming career in fourth at 16:44.32, and McNamara followed in sixth with a time of 16:55.66.

Waddell then earned second place in the 100 freestyle with a time of 49.45, a lifetime best.

Jackson topped off a phenomenal backstroke career in the 200, reclaiming her national title with a personal, school and NESCAC record of 1:55.83. In the 200 breaststroke, White took second at 2:15.08. 

The women rounded off their week in Texas with the 400 freestyle relay. The team of Smith, Jones, Jackson and Waddell secured a second-place finish with an overall time of 3:23.11.

The Ephs earned second overall with 445 points, and Waddell was named the Swimmer of the Meet for her stellar performances over the four-day championships.

Head Coach Steve Kuster was proud of the silver-medal finish. “All of the women contributed to the second-place finish,” he said. “It was great to see them battle as one this weekend and not back down from anyone at the meet. We talked about really making our presence known and they for sure did that and then some.”

He also praised Waddell and the senior competitors. “Emma has been so steady all year,” he said. “She has raised the bar in terms of her work ethic, and it really showed. She was great in her individual events and even better on our relays.

“Our seniors all had great outgoing meets to finish their careers on. It was so nice to see them go out on such a great note. The 200 backstroke for [Jackson] was about as close to perfect a race as you can get and was really special to watch.”

The women graduate Pierce, Jackson, Jones, Ross, Salmi, Nora Lee ’17, Erica Meyers ’17 and tri-captain Olivia Clark ’17.