High Tide
By Brian Kim '12 and Nihal Shrianth '12, Senior Writer and Editor-in-Chief
Led by a group of decorated veterans and propelled forward by strong newcomers, the women’s swimming and diving team swam their way to a second place finish in the three-day NESCAC tournament this past weekend. Highlighting the tournament were strong performances by superstar swimmer and Swimmer of the Meet, Kendra Stern ’11 and first-year backstroke specialist Emily Swett, with important contributions coming from many other swimmers and divers.

Stern continued her impressive season with wins in the 100-, 200- and 500-freestyle races, posting pool and meet records in all three individual events. With her second Swimmer of the Meet award in three years as an Amherst swimmer, Stern cemented her place in Amherst swimming lore. Swett burst onto the scene in impressive fashion in her first NESCAC tournament, capturing the 100- and 200-backstroke events.

On Friday, after making the trip up to Middlebury College, the Jeffs kicked off the meet with a bang. Meggie Meisinger ’11 broke a 19-year-old school record with a diving score of 417.10 in the one-meter dive, securing a third-place finish. Stern proceeded to win her first race of the meet in the 500-freestyle, with an NCAA “A” time of 4:52.14. Managing NCAA “B” times were senior Anna Haring, who placed eighth, and sophomore Becca Thompson who qualified in the consolation final.

Showing the strength of the freshman class, Maddy Sprung-Keyser provided Amherst’s second win of the day taking the 50-backstroke in 27.50 seconds. Later in the day, Sprung-Keyser joined Ellen Fitzgerald ’10, Nicole Heiss ’13 and Haring in earning a NCAA “B” time in the 400-medley relay. Placing a strong second in the event and also getting a NCAA “B” cut was the team of Swett, Kelley, Katie Vincett ’13 and senior co-captain Kendall Dacey.

Continuing to make waves, Stern, along with Vincett, Heise and Bobby Mason ’13, led the 200-freestyle relay team to a second-place finish (NCAA “B”). To end the day, Amherst dominated the 50-backstroke with a first-place showing by sophomore Rebecca Kelley, and fifth and eighth place showings by Fitzgerald and Catherine Maguire ’13.

The second day proved just as fruitful as the first for the Jeffs; they took first place in two events and second and third in four others. Stern won her second consecutive NESCAC 200-freestyle with a 1:42.09 (NCAA “A”) time and followed it up by leading the 200-medley relay team consisting of Stern, Kelley, Sprung-Keyser and Dacey to a second place time. The 100-backstroke was a showcase of Amherst first-years, with Swett coming in first in 58.01 seconds and Heise and Sprung-Keyser following not far behind in third and seventh place respectively. “The freshmen stepped up big time this weekend with stand-out performances in relays and individual events,” Stern said. The 100-breaststroke featured another great performance by Kelley, who took third and was followed by Fitzgerald in sixth place. Other Amherst NCAA “B” showings included the 800-freestyle relay (Haring, Thompson, Heise and Stern), 100-butterfly (Dacey) and 400-individual medley (Andrea Jensen ’11).

The Jeffs didn’t fade on the last day of the meet, winning two events and taking second in two others. Stern and Swett finished off their stellar performances in the tournament with a win each, taking the 100-freestyle (50.31 seconds) and the 200-backstroke (2:02.55) respectively, both of which were good for an NCAA “A” performance. Thompson finished third behind Swett with an NCAA “B” time of 2:07.39. Fitzgerald and Haring also swam NCAA “B” times in the 200-breaststroke (2:26.29) and the 200-butterfly (2:07.16), respectively. Heise, Vincett, Haring and Stern combined for a second-place finish in the 400-freestyle relay with an NCAA “B” time of 3:32:23. Meisinger rounded out her meet at the boards by placing second in the three-meter event with a score of 431.00.

Stern credited team support for her and others’ success, “I can personally say that knowing that my whole team is at the end of my lane screaming for me makes a huge difference, and I wouldn’t have been able to swim nearly as fast without their cheering.” Swett added, “This team has had a lot of success in past years, and so I think it was really important that we trusted our coach and upperclassmen teammates for guidance and support as we went into the NESCAC Championship.”

Overall, the weekend was a successful one and a reward for the hard work of a full season. “NESCACs is the culmination of the season for most of our team, and this year the meet was so successful because as a team we hit our taper well and were rested and ready to swim fast,” said Stern. “Also, the combination of positive moods, general excitement and nerves creates a perfect atmosphere to have amazing performances.” Swett was more than happy with her showing. “Personally -- Making it to NCAAs was far beyond my expectations. I went in to the weekend just hoping to swim fast!” she said.

Select members of the women’s swimming and diving teams will take part in the NCAA Championships, which begin on March 17 at the University of Minnesota Aquatic Center. Stern was optimistic, “A great NESCACs bodes well for the future and establishes a positive trajectory, so I am really excited about what we can potentially do at Nationals.”

Issue 16, Submitted 2010-02-24 15:16:10