Swim and dive capture 3rd in NCAC meet, headed to nationals

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Senior swimmer Casey Hooker (left) talks to freshman Mitch Davis (right)
at the end of an afternoon practice. Hooker is foregoing rest preceding
the NCAC meet in hopes of better times at the national championship.
SAM CARAVANA / THE DEPAUW

With swimming dynasties Kenyon College and Denison University in the lanes next to them, DePauw University men’s and women’s swimming both placed third in the North Coast Athletic Conference meet this weekend. The meet was hosted by Denison in Granville, Ohio.

“When we go to conference we’re asked to compete against the two most dominant teams in sports,” said head men’s swimming and diving coach Adam Cohen in reference to Denison and Kenyon.

The Kenyon men’s swimming and diving team won 31 straight NCAA national championships before losing in 2012 to rising juggernaut Denison. On the women’s side, the Kenyon Lord’s won 17 straight national championships before Denison snapped the record and took the trophy in 2001. In the last few years Kenyon and Denison have tossed the NCAC title back and forth, leaving DePauw in third or fourth place since the university joined the NCAC in 2011.

“Denison and Kenyon have so much depth it’s hard to beat them,” junior Alex Grissom said.

Despite the bronze finish neither team was disappointed by the outcome.

“91% of us got faster than our seed times,” said junior Erin Horne said. “That’s really big for us.” Seed times are the fastest time an athlete has swam in an event going into a specific meet.

Grissom was content with his teammates performance, the squad had 15 swimmers receive 26 personal best times. “We were definitely satisfied especially with a third of our guys not tapering,” Grissom said.

Nine of DePauw’s top male swimmers who recorded times typically fast enough to qualify for the national championship refused rest leading up to the NCAC meet. The strategy which hinders the athlete and team’s performance at conference ensures peak performance at the national championship.

“We want to finish third. We want to compete. We want to beat Wabash and we want our top seven guys not to be a factor,” Cohen said. “That’s like benching your entire starting lineup in basketball.”

Overcoming the obstacle presented by the long term strategy, DePauw still managed to maintain its third place spot with strong performances by sophomores Kyle Winters and Jimmy McDonnell. Winters placed 11th in the 200 yard backstroke while McDonnell ended up 15th.

The men’s team could send up to nine swimmers to the NCAA national championship in Shenandoah, Texas. Those nine swimmers include seniors Casey Hooker, Alex Alfonso and Chris Ercoli. Juniors Alex Grissom, Blake Lehmann and Stephen McMurtry will also likely make a return trip after appearing at nationals in 2014. Joining the upperclassmen is sophomore Brandon Sholtis and freshmen Mitch Davis and Kurt Swieter.

The nine swimmers with B cut times are not guaranteed a spot at nationals. Only the 16 athletes with the top times in an event are invited to the national championship.

The women’s swimming team will also likely be sending swimmers to Texas in March. Currently Emily Weber, Erin Horne, Annie Graves, Kirsten Olson and Angela Newlon have B cuts which could be their ticket to the national championship.

The women’s teams best chance at a national championship comes in the form of their 200, 400 and 800 free relays.

Both the men’s and women’s 400 free relay earned a third place finish and all NCAC honors at the conference meet.

Athletes will find out if they made the national cut on Feb. 24th. The NCAA national championship will begin Mar. 18 and will come to a close on Mar. 21.