By Anna Dunlavey
The Ladies swim team fought hard from the very first event of the North Coast Athletic Conference (NCAC) Championships, but despite a number of wins and personal best times, they came in second to the Denison University Big Red. The Ladies finished with 1,604.5 points, while Denison ended with 1,654.
The meet started strong on Thursday, Feb. 14, when diver Maria Zarka 16 took second place in the 3-meter dives.
A successful 500-freestyle relay yielded four personal bests: Mariah Williamson 16 placed first at 4:54.89, Syd Lindblom 14 came in fourth at 4:57.17, Kiersten Bell 13 took fifth with a time of 4:58.43 and Hannah Saiz 13 took sixth at 5:00.98.
But it was the 400-yard medley relay at the end of the night that stole the show. Celia Oberholzer 15, Katie Kaestner 16, Saiz and Hillary Yarosh 13 smashed both the Kenyon and NCAC records in the event, finishing at 3:43.37. The points earned from this win were enough to boost the Ladies to first place after Thursday.
The Ladies could not hold onto their lead on Friday, despite another second-place finish from Zarka in the 1-meter event. Saiz won in the 100-yard butterfly, Oberholzer in the 100-yard backstroke and Haley Townsend 16, Saiz, Williamson and Yarosh in the 800-yard freestyle relay, but Denison still managed to eclipse the Ladies in the overall standings.
With the first race on Saturday, the 1,650-yard freestyle, it seemed as though that gap could be closed. Williamson placed first in the mile-long event at 16:49.21, a personal best and NCAC record, and was followed by Bell in fourth and Lindblom in fifth.
The race brought the Ladies within 3.5 points of Denison, but that was as close as the Ladies could get, even with Saiz finishing first in the 200-butterfly at 1:58.98, and Townsend placing first in the 100-freestyle at a personal-best time of 51.24.
Theres disappointment when you get close to attaining a goal and dont achieve it, Head Coach Jessen Book 01 said. However, he and his team both know how important this meet was for the Ladies it represented how far they have come from even just a year ago. They have shown that they are able to compete against strong teams, such as Denison, and hold their own.
Its nice to know that we can make it close when both teams are at their best, Oberholzer said. It just shows how evenly matched we are, and it shows how it is anyones meet.
Were a really strong team and were able to look forward to the next challenge, Williamson said. I think that we did a really good job racing and not backing down, even when it was a tough fight.
The Ladies brought their all to Canton, Saiz said. They came with every ounce of determination, drive, spirit and hope that they possess, and I believe that as a team, we did incredibly well.
The meet saw a number of individual accomplishments. Most notably, Saiz was honored as the NCAC Female Swimmer of the Year. The Ladies also had several individual performances that may not have been first place finishes, but broke personal records and goals for the year.
I think you can look across the board, really, and see some special swims, from every group, every class, every training group, Book said. It was a really good meet for the Ladies.
You get exciting and inspiring swims from all over the team, Oberholzer said. At every level of the meet, theres really exciting things happening.
These intense moments of watching and screaming my head off, watching my teammates compete and cheering them on to bigger and better things, watching the everyday struggle pay off in finally breaking a time barrier, Saiz said. Thats what stands out as a highlight.
This weekend, the Ladies will host the Kenyon College Invitational at the Kenyon Aquatic Center. Not every Lady will be swimming, as many will be resting for the upcoming National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Championships.
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