Section: Sports

Ladies win their 24th national title for first time in 13 years

Ladies win their 24th national title for first time in 13 years

Hart won six events at the NCAA Championships, leading the charge in Indianapolis; the Lords finished fifth. | A.J. MAST

Over spring break, the Ladies bested 10-time defending national women’s swimming and diving champion Emory University by claiming their 24th national championship, the most in any women’s division in NCAA history and their first since 2009. The Lords were in search of their 35th national championship, but ended up finishing fifth. From March 16-19, Kenyon swimming and diving competed in Indianapolis at the NCAA Division III Swimming and Diving National Championships.

 

Ladies

Having won the NCAC championship, Kenyon women’s swimming and diving got off to a great start in the meet. At the end of day one, the Ladies were in first place with 100 points, but Denison University and Emory University (Ga.) were not far behind with 94 and 91 points, respectively. 

Crile Hart ’22 started her reign of dominance in the meet by winning the 200-yard individual medley in 1:57.76, beating her previous NCAA record time of 1:58.04. In the 50-yard freestyle, the Ladies grabbed two of the top three spots with Emmie Mirus ’22 finishing in second (22.77) and Alexandra White ’23 in third (22.92). Hart and Mirus teamed up with Jennah Fadely ’25 and Olivia Smith ’23 to compete in the 200-yard medley relay, where they set a new NCAA record time of 1:39.59.

The Ladies had a small lead going into day two. The coaches had told the team what position they expected to be in at the beginning and end of each day. Since the other teams had more swimmers competing on day one, the Ladies did not expect to be ahead. “It was actually very exciting,” Mirus wrote in an email to the Collegian. “Little did we know, that was just the first of many days out-scoring the projections!” 

Throughout the day, the lead flipped back and forth between Kenyon and Denison. The Ladies stayed on top due to their strong relay performances. Hart, Mirus, Sydney Geboy ’25 and White broke the 200-yard freestyle relay NCAA record with a time of 1:30.39. Later in the day, Hart and Mirus paired up with Smith and Fadley in the 400-yard medley relay, where they swam a record time of 3:38.05. 

The Ladies also found success in individual events. Gabrielle Wei ’25 placed third in the 400-yard individual medley (4:20.50). Smith finished fourth (54.62) in the 100-yard butterfly, and Hart won the event in 53.21. 

The Ladies entered day three with a 2.5-point lead over second place Denison.With just a quarter of the meet left, the Ladies had 311 points. A strong day by Emory put them in position to potentially grab the lead, trailing Kenyon by just 4 points. Denison lurked in third with 306.5 points. With a minuscule margin for error, the final day of the meet would determine the national champion. “We were all excited that we were performing better than expected in regards to team points but obviously nervous going into the last day, especially the last session because we knew it was going to be a battle until the very end,” Hart wrote in an email to the Collegian.

The Ladies did well in the 200-yard backstroke: Smith finished fourth (1:59.04), while Hart took the crown (1:56.54). 

In the 100-yard freestyle, Mirus was seeded third and was not expecting to win. However, she touched the wall at the 49.90 mark in dramatic fashion to capture her first career individual NCAA title. “I [experienced] this moment when I touched the wall of ‘wow, I don’t think anyone beat me. That’s crazy!’” Mirus said. “Winning the event didn’t (and doesn’t) matter so much to me individually; I was just super excited that it helped put my team in position to win the whole meet.”

Throughout the meet, the team fed off each other’s races. “Emmie Mirus’ 100 Freestyle in finals on the last day of NCAA was one of the most inspiring swims I have ever seen,” Hart said. “It was after that race that the whole Ladies team and coaching staff had so much confidence in each other and our ability to finish off the meet.”

As the day went on, the Ladies remained atop the leaderboard. The thought of breaking Emory’s 10-year run started to become a possibility for the Ladies. “We all started to really think ‘wow, we could really do this,’” Mirus said.

The Ladies continued day four with a third-place finish (2:14.57) by Fadley in the 200-yard breaststroke. The final event of the meet was the 400-yard freestyle. Needing a sixth-place finish or better to win the national championship, the swimmers’ nerves were calmed. “We were confident in ourselves that we could do what needed to be done,” Hart said. After a slow start, the Ladies were in eighth place at the halfway mark when Hart and Mirus dove into the water to complete the final two legs of the race. They made up tons of ground, and subsequently helped their team finish third in the event to clinch the trophy for the Ladies. 

“The feeling of winning a national championship hit in waves for me,” said Mirus. “It started with near disbelief, then relief, then this huge wave of joy that was almost certainly unbreakable at that moment.” 

Behind Kenyon’s 446 points, Emory finished in second place with 439 points and was followed by Denison with 411.5. It was the first national championship for Kenyon College in any sport since the men’s swimming and diving team won in 2015.

Head Lords and Ladies Swimming and Diving Coach Jess Book was named co-Division III Coach of the Year for the third time since he took over the job nine years ago. In addition to lifting the team trophy, Hart earned D-III Swimmer of the Year for the second time in her career, having won four individual events and three of the four relays she was in. “It was the most perfect ending to my swim career that I could have ever imagined,” Hart said. “I couldn’t have asked for a better last meet of my career ever.”

 

Lords

While the Ladies were powered by seniors, the Lords found success with sophomores and juniors.

The Lords started the meet with a win in the pool and on the board for day one. Bryan Fitzgerald ’23 finished first in the 500-yard freestyle with a time of 4:21.58. Israel Zavaleta ’24 made his national championships debut with a win in the 3-meter diving competition (561.80). 

On day two, Fitzgerald won the 400-yard individual medley with a time of 3:47.62. David Fitch ’22 was bested in the 100-yard butterfly, finishing in second (46.86), but still holds the NCAA record at 46.46 seconds.

At the halfway point in the meet, the Lords were in eighth place due to their relays underperforming with a pair of disqualifications. However, their energy persisted, and they were determined to keep going in the meet. “We never lost our hunger to win,” Fitzgerald wrote in an email to the Collegian. “It’s a very encouraging takeaway from this meet that what we have as a team is deeply ingrained in us.”

Zavaleta helped the Lords gain back points in the meet. He won the 1-meter event with a score of 576.40, breaking not only his own Kenyon record, but also shattering the previous championship event record set in 2002 by almost 20 points. He fell 2.3 points short of the NCAA record. Kosian added a fourth-place finish (47.04) in the 100-yard backstroke.

With 216.5 points, the Lords were in sixth place and ready to earn a top-five finish on day four. Kosian placed second in the 200-yard backstroke with a time of 1:42.90.

At the end of the meet, Kenyon men’s swimming and diving earned 282.5 points, which was good for a top-five finish. Emory won the meet with 427.5 points. The Lords also had athletes who earned individual honors. Zavaleta earned NCAA Diver of the Year, while Head Men’s and Women’s Diving Coach Ron Kontura won Dive Coach of the Year. Fitzgerald was named Swimmer of the Year. 

While the Ladies will look to defend their title next season for the first time in 13 years, the Lords will be looking to win their first national championship since 2015. “There’s no way to guarantee a result,” Fitzgerald said. “Our actual finish in the standings depends on who else shows up. However, sort of by definition actually, there will be no path to winning if we don’t act like winners for the entire year.”

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