NESCAC Men’s Championships – Recap

Congratulations to Williams for a hard-fought win in last weekend’s NESCAC Championships. When all was said and done, Williams prevailed over Amherst by a score of 1741.5 to 1614.5 (Tufts finished in 3rd with a score of 1318, full results can be found here: www.sncaquatics.com/live). The meet included some of the fastest swimming in the conference’s history, highlighted by three conference records from Williams’ sophomore Paul Dyrkacz.

This year’s meet accentuated the split between these top two teams and the rest of the conference, as an astounding number of Amherst and Williams swimmers qualified for top eight over the course of the meet. Amherst earned 20 of the conference’s 57 All-NESCAC team honors for individual events (in recognition of top-three finishes), while Williams earned 13 such honors, leaving only 24 top three finishes for the rest of the conference combined. Dyrkacz was named Swimmer of the Meet, while Coach Steve Kuster was the Coach of the Year, in recognition of the Williams team’s impressive performance.

Williams received huge contributions from every spot on their 24-man roster, and their depth proved key in the victory over Amherst. Dyrkacz’ meet included wins and records in all three of his events (200 IM, 400 IM and 200 Breaststroke), in addition to serving as a key cog on numerous relays. Williams took home the top spot in the 200 and 400 freestyle relays, in addition to winning four of the five B relay events. First-year Martin Soderstrom made a big impact, as did senior stalwarts Ben Wampler and Gary Roberson. Williams should bring a strong contingent of swimmers to NCAAs and will look to improve upon their 9th place finish from last year. Based on my calculations, Williams’ four lowest scorers still totaled 116 points while Amherst was only able to score around 30 points with their bottom four.

Amherst displayed an impressive group of top-level talent but was unable to overcome the depth of Williams for the team title. Senior Alex Fraser led the charge once again with wins in the 100, 200 and 500 freestyles, in addition to anchoring three winning relays for Amherst (200 Medley, 400 Medley, 800 Free). While he was not completely rested, his performance served notice to the country that he is poised to defend his titles in the 200 and 500 freestyle events while challenging for the 100 title once again in Tennessee. Amherst displayed their impressive freestyle depth, as first-year Conor McAuliffe and junior Ryan Lichtenfels also won the 1000 and 1650, respectively. Amherst, who, including diving, appear to have 10 individuals with qualifications for nationals, will bring five with a strong shot to score in the 500 freestyle alone. The team looks to be the strongest challenger to Kenyon in the 800 free relay, albeit as a longshot, and will challenge for a top four finish as a team.

Tufts had a lone swimmer (Kyle Savidge in the 1,000) finish in the top three during the meet, but, behind Diver of the Meet Johann Schmidt’s two wins and a deep squad that filled the consolation and preconsolation finals, put forth a strong third place showing. Junior Owen Rood did little to impress in this meet after a strong finish to his sophomore campaign, so he will look to improve on his times as the only additional individual qualifier for the team (assuming that Schmidt earns an invitation).

Middlebury repeated their fourth-place finish, proving, once again, that the in-season results mean very little when it comes to their NESCAC performance. After a regular season that included losses to Conn College, Springfield and Union, Middlebury once again pulled together strong relays and a few top-level finishes. Reigning NCAA Swimmer of the Meet John Dillon led the charge, although he did not seem to be in quite the same shape, neglecting to swim the 200 butterfly (1:45.01 last year) in favor of 50 back and 100 back swims in which he finished 3rd and 2nd, respectively. First-year Ian Mackay looks to be a strong building block for the post-Dillon era, as he took the meet by storm in winning the 50 fly, tying Ben Wampler for the win in the 50 free and placing just behind Dillon in the 100 fly.

The battle for fifth place proved to be a competitive one, with Conn College prevailing over Bowdoin, Bates and Hamilton in the end. Conn followed the lead of junior Tim Walsh, who swept the backstroke events in impressive fashion and will be tough to beat at the national level as well.  First-year performers Sam Gill and Ryan Dignan also put forth strong efforts in their push for fifth.

Bowdoin put much of last year’s criticism to rest as they proved that they can, in fact, perform at a taper meet. Nathan Mecray served as the team’s compass once again, although he was unable to win the 100 breast after a second straight season with a big advantage in his in-season times.

While Bates only moved up one place from last year, they seem to be the most improved squad in the conference. First-year Won Ho Chang provides a top of the line performer to lead the push, scoring 86 points (maximum of 96 with three wins). Despite losing Sam Schadt, a strong in-season performer, to either sickness or injury, the team was able to overtake Hamilton at the end.

With the fall to 8th place and with the Deconinck’s graduating this year, it looks to be rebuilding time for Hamilton. Hogenkamp provides a solid presence in the lineup, but the team lacks much in the way of top-end talent.

At the end of the conference, Trinity, although slightly improved, Colby and Wesleyan displayed very little talent. It would be interesting to see if the battles throughout the rest of the conference may have been impacted had the meet been slightly deeper. With Williams taking their advantage over Amherst by dominating the consolation heat, a more balanced league may have shifted the results in the direction of Amherst.

Again, congratulations to all of the competitors in the meet, and good luck to the individuals who will continue their season at NCAAs. The NESCAC will send a strong contingent to Tennessee, and a number of individuals in the conference will have a shot to win events at the meet.

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