Swim and Dive Crush Competition On Road to NCAA
By Nihal Shrinath '12, Editor-in-Chief
Following their female counterparts’ success two weeks ago, the men’s swimming and diving team traveled to Williamstown last weekend and matched the women’s standard, placing third overall in the three-day NESCAC tournament.

The male swimmers were unable to unseat seven-time defending champions Williams on their home pool, but nevertheless made a splash, picking up a conference-high eight titles and building momentum for the NCAA nationals, which start on March 17 at the University of Minnesota. The Jeffs were anchored by an extremely strong sophomore class. Ryan Lichtenfels ’12 was a three-event champion while Tim White ’12 and Ben McBratney ’12 notched two titles apiece. Continuing his freestyle race dominance, Alex Fraser ’11 provided veteran leadership, winning three events in impressive fashion. Fraser credited seniors for leading a small, but deep team to an impressive result. He noted, “Our senior captains Tad Homchick and Hunter Mims really set the tone all weekend in and out of the pool. While Tad is moving on to NCAAs in mid-March, Hunter saved his best race of his career for last in the 200 butterfly.”

Looking to build momentum for the weekend, the Jeffs dove into action Friday evening and were not to be disappointed. Fraser defended his title in the 500-free with an NCAA “A” time of 4:29.84. Finishing just ten hundredths of a second behind with another NCAA “A” time was Lichtenfels. Junior Ryan Colby and first-year Sheng Zhu rounded out the Amherst placers in fifth (NCAA “B”) and sixth respectively.

Amherst also owned the 400-individual medley. Champion McBratney touched first in 1:53.45, quick enough to make the NCAA “B” cut. The Jeffs’ relay teams proved to be formidable forces, with senior co-captain Tad Homchick, McBratney, Lichtenfels and White taking third in the 200-freestyle relay (NCAA “B”) and Reid Fitzgerald ’11, Federak, McBratney and Fraser swimming to a second place NCAA “B” time in the 400-individual medley. Homchick added to his achievements over his four-year swim career with a NCAA “ B” qualifying time in the 50-freestyle, and Fitzgerald notched third in the 50-backstroke during Day One.

Day Two proved to be the best day of the tournament for the Jeffs, who won four swimming titles. Showing his veteran savvy, Fraser blew away the competition and defended his 200-freestyle title with an NCAA “A” time of 1:39.72. Keeping the momentum going, McBratney demonstrated his versatility, winning the 100-breaststroke in 57.22 (NCAA “B”) and placing third in the 100-butterfly (NCAA “B”). Lichtenfels got the Jeffs their third title of the day in the 400-individual medley with an NCAA “A” time of 3:59.85. Capping off a successful day in the pool, the 800-freestyle relay team raced out to a 6:43.10 (NCAA “B”) first place finish. Other NCAA “B” qualifiers on the day were Fitzgerald, McBratney, Homchick and Fraser in the 200-medley relay (second) and Fitzgerald (second) and Daniel Schwab ’13 (sixth) in the 100-backstroke.

The Jeffs made a push to overtake the Ephs in the standings on the last day, winning two NESCAC titles, but fell short. Completing the race more than 10 seconds ahead of the next swimmer, Lichtenfels endured and won the 1,650-freestyle in 15:45.02 (NCAA “A”). In the next race, the 200-backstroke, the Jeffs were equally as impressive. White, who took first in 1:51.20 (NCAA “B”) for his second title of the tournament, was followed by Schwab and Fitzgerald, both making the NCAA “B” cut in third and sixth respectively. Federak and sophomore Mike O’Connor also secured NCAA “B” times by placing third and fifth respectively in the 200-breaststroke event. In the final event of the tournament, Homchick, McBratney, Lichtenfels and Fraser took second (NCAA “B”) in the 400-freestyle relay.

Though unable to topple Williams and come away as NESCAC champions, the Jeffs still had much to be proud of. They won two more conference titles than any other team, and numerous swimmers were named All-NESCAC. McBratney and Fraser were named All-Conference in seven events apiece, and Lichtenfels earned honors in six. Homchick, Colby, Fitzgerald, Federak, White and Schwab were all named All-NESCAC in at least one event. The small Amherst squad competed admirably with swimming contingents larger than theirs. “Having only 17 swimmers, we knew our depth would not allow us to compete with teams like Tufts and Williams,”said Fraser. “Although we did give Tufts quite a scare, which only goes to show our remarkable talent despite lack of numbers,” The team hopes to convert these individual accolades into results at the NCAA Nationals in two weeks. Fraser was optimistic about the team’s chances. “NESCACs is a really good measure of how the season is going so far and good practice for NCAAs. The meet format for NCAAs is very similar to that of NESCACs, with events occurring over a 4-day period. You learn a lot about your technique and help formulate the right people in different relays. The little tweaks after NESCACs really help us swim faster and place higher at NCAAs.”

Issue 17, Submitted 2010-03-03 04:49:49