Amherst vs. Williams

On Saturday, Amherst will travel to Williams for their annual meet, which is arguably the fasted Division III dual meet in the country. With top talent like Amherst’s 3-time NCAA Champion Alex Fraser, reigning mile champion Ryan Lichtenfels, and Tim White, who has continued to impress in his junior year, swimming against Williams’ trio of Ben Wampler, Gary Roberson, and Paul Dyrkacz, this year promises to be no different. As NESCAC rules dictate that teams begin training no earlier than November 1st, this meet marks the first time when these teams have an opportunity to post top times.

For the men’s meet, a short event format is used, and the winner of the meet typically needs to carry at least 7 of the 13 events. With the versatility of a number of swimmers (including Lichtenfels (capable of winning the 200, 500 or 1000 freestyle events) and White (capable of winning the 200, 500, 1000, 200 Back, 200 IM)), it becomes very difficult to make an accurate projection. The teams have split the meet the last two years (Amherst 133-Williams 108 in 2009, Williams 125-Amherst 118 in 2010), but, with Amherst’s addition of a deep and talented freshman class, including a strong diving team, it is hard to view the Ephmen as anything but the underdogs this year.

For a simplistic analysis, I see Amherst as a safe bet to win the 400 Medley Relay, 1000, 200 Fly, 200 Back and both diving events, while Williams is a safe bet to win the 50 free and the 200 Breast. In the remaining events, Williams is probably the slight favorite in the 200 free, 100 free and 400 free relay, with Amherst favored in the 500 free, leaving the 200 IM as a tossup. Williams’ path to victory would require wins by Ben Wampler in the 50 and 100 Free, Gary Roberson in the 200 and 500 free, Paul Dyrkacz in the 200 IM and 200 Breast and a win in the 400 Free relay. In the deciding races, I predict that reigning NCAA Champion Alex Fraser takes the 200 Free in a close race with Gary Roberson, and that Ryan Lichtenfels comes out ahead of Roberson in the 500 Free, leaving Williams short of their goal.

Every year, a few swimmers put forth performances in this meet that no one could have predicted, and I look forward to watching the two teams compete on Saturday and insert their stories into one of the most historic and pure rivalries that our country has to offer. For a complete analysis of the meet, please view the NESCAC Forum, where I will post an event-by-event breakdown, and, for those interested in watching the meet, head to Williams’ website on Saturday to access the webcast of the meet.

My final prediction: Amherst 127 Williams 116.

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