On Feb. 12, the Kenyon College women’s swimming and diving team traveled to Denison University to compete in the 2020 NCAC Championship. The Ladies entered the championships ranked No. 3 in the D-III national rankings. Since their first NCAC victory in 1985, the Ladies have claimed 26 titles—more than any other program in the conference. In this year’s competition, they came up just a bit short in their quest for their third straight conference title, finishing in second behind the top-ranked team in the country: the Denison Big Red. Despite this, they still performed well, finishing with 1,787 points, over 600 more than third-place Allegheny College.
The four-day event commenced at Denison’s Trumball Aquatics Center with Wednesday evening’s 800-yard freestyle relay. In an extremely close race that exemplified many of the weekend’s results, the Ladies’ “A” relay team fell to the Big Red by just .02 seconds. Soon after, in the 200-yard freestyle relay, Kenyon again finished in second by a slim margin. In each of their five relays, the Ladies finished in the runner-up position behind Denison.
Kenyon was even more outstanding in the individual portion. Crile Hart ’21 shined for the Ladies throughout the weekend: She secured three individual event victories, in the 200-yard individual medley (IM), the 200-yard backstroke and the 100-yard butterfly. She set both pool and conference records in each of her victories. In the 200-yard IM, she broke the NCAA record with a time of 1:58.04. To top it all off, Hart received the NCAC Swimmer of the Year award for the second consecutive year. Olivia Smith ’23 also took home an award, winning NCAC Newcomer of the Year. At the championships, she won the 100-yard backstroke, finished second behind Hart in the 200-yard backstroke and placed fourth in the 100-yard butterfly.
The Ladies were able to secure sweeps of first, second and third in multiple races, which contributed significantly to their high point total. In the 200-yard backstroke, Hart won with a time of 1:56.85, Smith was right behind her in 2:01.75 and Summer Otazu ’20 came in third (2:02.37). The 1,650-yard freestyle represented another extremely successful event: Claire Murray ’21 was victorious with a time of 17:04.70. She was followed by Kendal Vanderhoof ’20, who came to the wall at 17:11.29, and Gail Anderson ’20 with a time of 17:14.55.
Coach Jess Book was proud of his team for handling the pressure of the conference championship, saying, “you can’t really emulate that environment until you’re in it.” Book attributes much of this composure to a strong line of communication and a relentless drive toward goals both individual and collective. “I like where we are culturally,” he said. “We can be very happy with what we did and we can measure that beyond winning and losing. In other sports… It can be much more difficult to identify individual success, but for us, we can see individual success [and] progress.”
The Ladies will look to take this mindset into the Fast Chance Invitational on Saturday and eventually the NCAA Championships, which will take place March 18-21 in Greensboro, N.C.