2012 Men’s NESCAC Championship Preview

The 2012 Men’s NESCAC Championships is shaping up to be the most exciting in years. Already considered one of the fastest and deepest conferences in Division III, this year the league should see close battles at almost every position. Scheduled for February 24-26, 2012, at the Muir-Samuelsson pool at Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts, at least eight teams have a realistic shot of having a relay achieve a B cut, and every team could expect at least one individual B cut.

Overall Placing

At the top of the league perennial powerhouses Amherst and Williams are expected to have an epic battle for the league title. With the exception of 2001 Williams has won every NESCAC or New England (the predecessor meet) title since the beginning of time. Although Williams prevailed by 139 points last year, by virtue of their dominant dual meet win Amherst goes in to the meet as the favorite. Both teams graduated strong senior classes (Williams graduated ¾ of its NESCAC champion 200 free relay) and replenished their rosters with large, strong freshmen classes full of potential national qualifiers. However, Amherst does have a couple of advantages that could help bring them over the top. Firstly, Amherst had 5 non-scoring swims last year while Williams had none, and with this year’s full roster they should eliminate that disparity. Secondly, while sprint free is the weakest event for both teams, Amherst brings in a stronger class of sprinters to help close the gap. Amherst’s 200 and 400 free relays finished 6th and 5th respectively last year and should be improved, another opportunity to close the gap with Williams.

Long time third place finisher Tufts will also be pushed hard by an improving Connecticut College squad. Last year Conn‘s breaststroke weakness hampered their relays and kept them in a battle for 5th place with Bowdoin. They remedied that with a strong freshmen class with two potential breaststroke finalists along with a slew of potential scorers. Although the loss of middle distance national qualifier Ryan Dignan leaves a hole on the end of their relays, Conn should have enough depth to move into the league’s top tier. Tufts, the long time king of depth in the NESCAC, will have to rely on that this year to stay at the top of the league. While the team will again be led by NESCAC record holder sprinter Owen Rood they graduated half of their A relay swims and have only 7 swimmers on the top 24 list in three events. However, with a roster of 40 swimmers and divers the team should be able to rely on the inevitable breakthrough swims to help keep them near the top of the league.

An exciting battle is also shaping up for fifth place with Bowdoin, Bates, and Middlebury fighting to stay in thee top half of the league. Lead by the front end speed of Nate Mecray, Bowdoin enters the meet with the league’s fastest time in the 200 medley relay. The team has been bolstered this year by a strong freshmen class that should give them the depth to fight for a position at the top of the league. However, the team has not tapered well in past years and will have to perform well to stay near the top. Bates and Middlebury will try and push Bowdoin out of the fifth spot. Bates has been hit hard by injuries, but if their swimmers heal on time (and some of them were back at their last home meet) they could push Bowdoin out of the 5th spot. Middlebury was hit hard by graduation, including former national swimmer of the year John Dillon, and the early loss of butterflier / freestyler Ian MacKay – the key to last year’s national qualifying relays. With a new coach it’s tough to tell how the team will perform at the end of the year.

Hit hard by graduation, Hamilton they will have a tough time pushing into the grouping above. More likely they will battle with a rebuilding Wesleyan squad led by former Yale coach Frank Keefe. An improved Colby squad will battle a lack of depth as they try and fight off a Trinity squad that swam very well at last year’s championships.

Individual Swims
• 200 Free Relay – with traditional sprinting powers Williams and Middlebury short on sprinters this year the door has been opened for some other teams to take the title. Tufts enters with the league’s fastest time and should be considered the favorite with Owen Rood available to anchor the relay. Expect Conn and possibly Bowdoin to push them.
• 50 Breast – two time defending champion Nate Mecray enters with a seed time over a second and a half faster than last year’s 3d place finisher Ben McBratney but McBratney has always tapered well for this meet. Mason Roberts of Colby and Chris Vandiford of Middlebury could push the front group.
• 50 Fly – Bowdoin’s Mac Routh enters with the fastest seed time but will be pushed by Conn’s Sam Gill and Amherst’s Will McCartan
• 500 Free – perhaps the fastest event in the league, and one dominated by Amherst and Williams, it could take a time of under 4:37 to make top 8. Look for last year’s national champion Ryan Lichtenfels to move back into this event from the 200 IM. Teammates Parker Moody, Conor McAuliffe, and Tim White along with Williams’ Tom Vieth, Christian Gronbeck, and John Armstrong will all push the top. Conn’s Fabian and Martin are the only non – Amherst and Williams swimmers in the top 12.
• 50 Back – defending NESCAC champion Tim Walsh has a seed time over a second ahead of Amherst freshman Conor Deveney and should be the favorite to report. Many of the other swimmers in the top 8 – Routh of Bowdoin, Rochford and Bulakul of Amherst – may swim other events, making it tough to predict the rest of the top heat.
• 200 IM – last year the top 9 finishers were from Amherst and Williams. Look for defending national and NESCAC champion Paul Dyrkacz to defend his title, especially if Lichtenfels moves back into the 500 free. Amherst’s Rochford and Beaulieu along with Williams’ Corbett will push fort he top. Bowdoin’s Kulesza and Rhodes are the first non Williams and Amherst swimmers on the top 24 list but they are seeded 12th and 13th respectively.
• 50 Free – Bowdoin’s Nate Mecray, the top returning finisher from last year, enters as the only swimmer already under 21 seconds this year. Fellow Mainer Nick Daly, Owen Rood, and Sam Gill (if he swims it) should push the top.
• 1 Meter – Look for Amherst’s Colin White and Tufts’ Johann Schmidt to battle each other for first. Bates’ Travis Jones and Williams freshman Rohan Bhatt should also push for the top.
• 400 Medley Relay – Amherst and Williams enter with the top two times by virtue of their dual meet with each other and have to be considered the favorites. Look for Amherst to dominate the second half of this race and get the win. Bowdoin, Midd, Bates, and Conn should all be in a close battle for third.
• 200 Medley Relay – Amherst and Bowdoin enter with nearly identical times and the outcome could depend on who Amherst rests for this relay while Bowdoin looks for their first relay title in over a decade. Williams, Conn, and Tufts should battle for third.
• 1000 Free – a very tough event to call. Will Lichtenfels, White, and Gronbeck swim this or opt for the 200 free or 400IM? Defending champion John Armstrong enters with the 2d fastest seed time behind Tim White, and Conn’s Max Fabian and Bo Martin should push the top.
• 400IM – another incredibly strong event, depending on who swims the event it could take a time of under 4:00 to make the top 8. Look for Lichtenfels to move back into the 200 while Amherst’s Rochford and Beaulieu try and push Dyrkacz and teammates Corbett and Lattimer. Wesleyan’s Brendan Fortin and Bowdoin’s Ryan Peabody could push the top group.
• 100 Butterfly – Conn’s Sam Gill, the fastest swimmer not to make nationals last year, enters with the fastest seed time by over a second. Maine rivals Routh of Bowdoin and Gagne of Bates should battle for second.
• 200 Freestyle – look for Lichtenfels to move back into this event and battle Williams’ Tom Vieth – the league’s fastest seed at 1:40.69. Amherst’s Egan, Moody, and Cagenello will battle Williams’ Will Brown, Alex Nanda, and Christian Gronbeck (if he doesn’t swim other events) in another event dominated by the two Massachusetts rivals.
• 100 Breast – As he has done the last two years, Bowdoin’s Nate Mecray enters with the league’s fastest seed time. However, the question remains of whether he can actually win the title as he has failed the last two years. NESCAC record holder Ben McBratney has to be considered a favorite as Dyrkacz and Beaulieu will likely swim other events.
• 100 Back – Defending champion Tim Walsh has the fastest seed time, just ahead of Amherst’s Conor Deveney. With Gill and Dyrkacz likely to swim other events these two should be far ahead of the rest of the field.
• 800 Relay – Defending champion Amherst returns ¾ of their relay but graduated their fastest split in Alex Fraser. However, they should still have the horses to hold off Williams. Look for Hamilton, Conn, Bates, or even Bowdoin for a distant third place.
• 1650 – Look for Lichtenfels, White, and McAuliffe to be at the front along with Conn’s Fabian and Williams’ Gronbeck and Armstrong.
• 200 Back – See the 100 back, as Walsh and Deveney look to battle at the front, this time joined by Rochford and Brandon Brown.
• 100 Free – Nate Mecray has the fastest seed time but he has not swum this event in the past. Tom Vieth, Hamilton’s Taylor Hogenkamp, Nick Daly, and Owen Rood should be at the front.
• 200 Breast – Paul Dryrkacz again enters with the fastest time in another event dominated by Amherst and Williams. Dyrkacz’s teammates Corbett and Lattimer will try and hold off Amherst’s Beaulieu and Federak.
• 200 Fly – will Rochford try and pull of the 200 back and fly double? He enters with the fastest time in the event, nearly a second ahead of Bowdoin’s Chris Granata. Look for Williams’ Horgan (who swam well last year after being abroad the first semester) and Amherst’s Bulakul to be in the equation.
• 3 meter – see one meter
• 400 free relay – Williams is the defending champion and top seed but lost half of last year’s relay. Amherst is seeded second and should be able to hold that as Middlebury lost 3/4 of last year’s 2d place relay and Tufts and Conn both lost half of their relays. Tufts, Bowdoin, and Middlebury are all seeded together at 3:12 and should battle it out for 3d.

Thanks polarbear

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