200 Medley Relay
Amherst and Tufts look to have a close battle for the win in this race. Tufts took the event last year on the strength of a 19.5 from Rood, but Amherst adds first-year Tyler Bulakul, potentially taking over a second off their time in the fly leg alone. Based on this addition and on their superior in season swims, Amherst appears to be the slight favorite here. Williams can also never be counted out of this. Conn College has arguably three of the best legs in the conference, but will need an amazing swim in the breast leg to stay with the more complete teams.
The three-time champion in this event, Gary Roberson of Williams, looks to make it a career sweep. However, he will face a significant challenge from teammate John Armstrong, who has made dramatic strides in his sophomore campaign. Amherst’s Tim White could play into a huge factor here should he choose to swim the event instead of the 100 back or 200 free. Again, look for a strong Williams and Amherst contingent here, including McAuliffe and Pearlman from Amherst, as well a few Tufts swimmers in the top 12 overall.
Again, only one senior graduates from the top 8, and the matchup between Junior Ryan Lichtenfels of Amherst and Paul Dyrkacz again comes to the front of the pack, head and shoulders above the rest. Lichtenfels is the NESCAC record holder and placed 3rd at nationals, so look for him to take home another win. Amherst also has a new threat in freshman Connor Beaulieu who could play into the top three spots, as could Williams’ Chris Corbett.
In his second event, look for John Dillon to win despite facing significant challenges from Bates freshman Won Ho Chang, Amherst freshman Tyler Bulakul and sophomore Ben McBratney, Bowdoin sophomore Mac Routh and Conn freshman Sam Gill. It could take around a B-cut just to make the top 8.
Alex Fraser returns to the pool again and must be considered the favorite given his history in the event. The competition for second this year should include Williams’ Tom Vieth, Conn’s Ryan Dignan, Tufts’ Owen Rood and Amherst’s Moody and Colby, among others, as only one swimmer graduated from last years top 8. Roberson could also choose to swim this instead of the 1000, making for an even more interesting race given his 3rd place finish at NCAAs in this event.
Ben McBratney returns as the reigning champion but faces a renewed challenge from Bowdoin junior Nathan Mecray, who is hoping to dispel the doubts about his ability to taper off of his impressive in-season times. Look for him to make a major push for the top of the podium this year. Also look for Tufts senior Zed Debbaut to make a case, as his times from nationals would have placed him just behind McBratney at the conference meet. Bart Federak and Mike O’Connor will make a strong play toward the top of the podium, and, with only one loss due to graduation in this event, the introduction of Williams’ freshman Martin Soderstrom and Trinity freshman Max Ma could make for a crowded competition.
Defending champion Tim Walsh must be considered the favorite, given his 51.3 in season performance already. Amherst’ Reid Fitzgerald, last season’s runner up, posted a 50.7 at NCAAs last year and returns to challenge Walsh for the top spot again after his strongest regular season yet. His teammate, Dan Schwab, hopes to continue his strong season, while the Tufts backstroke duo of EJ Testa and Mike Del Moro could also give the top 3 of the podium a significant challenge. Only the number 8 swimmer from last season does not return, so look for a very fast and deep final in this concluding individual event for session two.
800 Freestyle Relay
Amherst is the prohibitive favorite, with both Fraser and Lichtenfels teaming up again. With their second place at nationals last year, this should be a fairly straightforward race, as their in season times can be added for an aggregate of 6:52.6, a time that could win this event at NESCACs not too long ago. A strong Williams team will certainly want to be considered and can never be counted out with Vieth, Dyrkacz and Roberson leading the Ephs charge. After these two teams, the speed drops off considerably, and the third place spot is very open for grabs. Look for both Tufts and Hamilton to make a run at the bronze medal position. Amherst and Williams’ B squads would actually have the talent to challenge for third in the event if the rules allowed it.