By Alex Pijanowski | Staff Writer
From Wednesday, March 19 through Saturday, March 22, the Kenyon Lords competed at the NCAA Divison III national championship meet. The Lords won their 33rd national title with 480 points, just eight points ahead of rival Denison University.
There was a potent mix of nervousness and excitement, both on deck and in the stands, just before the 6 p.m. start of the finals on Saturday evening. Several teams circled up for a show of team unity and pride.
But one aspect that separates the beginning of a swim meet from a first pitch or kick-off is the complete silence which descends upon an expansive room like the Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) Natatorium just before the first event.
After the first day of the meet, the Lords were in second place with 104 points, behind Denison (173 points). Through Friday evening, Denison maintained first place with 374 points, and Kenyon was still in second with 346, but had shrunk a 69-point Denison lead to a mere 28 points.
After the final event, the 400-yard freestyle relay, the Lords had claimed first place with 480 points, just ahead of Denison’s team score of 472.
Despite a pre-existing tradition of success, Head Coach Jess Book ’01 said he prefers to treat each season as an individual case.
“Sometimes it gets easy to overlook success when it’s been earned repeatedly. Even though this success looks similar to some success from the past, this is a very different season — a very different team,” Book said. “Half the people at that meet had never been to that meet before. I’m very proud of what they did, and people can celebrate the fact that this was a very exciting season and a very exciting outcome.”
Although the team placed second to Denison at the conference meet in February, Book said the team’s solid make-up helped it clinch the national victory.
“I think the big difference was the way our team performed in the championship meet. We were very patient and very resilient, and stayed focused on ourselves and our own performances,” Book said.
Austin Caldwell ’15 earned an individual title for Kenyon on Thursday by winning the 200-yard freestyle in a time of 1:37.16. Caldwell won the event the previous year. Harrison Curley ’15 won the 200-yard backstroke in 1:45.11.
Besides those first-place swims, the championship heat of nearly every event included at least one Kenyon athlete.
For example, the championship heat of the 400-yard individual medley included four Lords — Curley finished in second, Trevor Manz ’17 in third, Andrew Chevalier ’14 in fourth and Ian Reardon ’17 in seventh.
Arthur Conover ’17 swam a time of 4:27.40 in the Wednesday night finals for the 500-yard freestyle, which was good for third place. Trevor Manz ’17 was fifth in the 100-yard breaststroke with a time of 54.95, which was within a second of the meet record.
The team’s performance in the final relay — the 400-yard freestyle — was essential to their victory, because a first-place finish by Denison and an eighth-place finish by the Lords could have dropped Kenyon into second overall.
“My mentality was, I need to beat at least two people, and we did,” Caldwell said. “It was very close to being a two-point meet instead of an eight-point meet.”
Caldwell succeeded in his mission — when he entered the water to swim the final leg of the relay, Kenyon was eighth and Denison in first, but 43.66 thrilling seconds later, Denison was in second, and Kenyon was sixth and in comfortable possession of first place.
And the crowd wasn’t silent then.
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