March 21, 2012

Denison a close second after day one at NCAA Championship

Denison sophomore Al Weik opened the 2012 NCAA Division III Swimming & Diving Championship with a victory in the 500 freestyle and through five events, Denison trails first-place Kenyon by 11 points. 

The Big Red totaled 118 points in Wednesday's finals and the Lords, fueled by a strong showing in the 50 freestyle, posted 129 points.

Weik sent a strong message to the rest of his teammates when he posted a new meet record in the 500 free, touching in 4:21.79.  That time bested the previous national record of 4:21.95 set by Amherst's Alex Fraser in 2009.  Weik shaved nearly four seconds off his time that landed him in third-place a year ago.

Following Weik in with a third-place finish in the consolation heat was senior Dan Thurston who picked up six points with a time of 4:30.49.

In the men's 3-meter dive it was junior Gabe Dixson who improved upon his fourth-place finish in 2011 with a third-place showing and a score of 527.65.  Following Dixson in sixth-place was first-year Connor Dignan who scored 488.75 in the finals.  Senior Phil Meyer earned his first All-American certificate with a 16th place showing and a final score of 393.60.  Overall, the Big Red totaled 30 unanswered points in the event and Dixson came through down the stretch with a score of 64.40 on his second-to-last dive.  On his final dive, with a 2.7 degree of difficulty, Dixson needed a score of 69.3 to win the event and totaled a 55.35 to temporarily move into second-place.  The eventual champion, Phil Devine of Wisconsin-OshKosh would unseat him with his final dive.

In the pivotal 50 freestyle, which saw Kenyon take four of the top nine spots, Denison's Mike Barczak placed fifth with a time of 20.32 to earn 14 points.  Kenyon tallied 61 points and the swing more than offset Denison's 30 diving points.

Prior to the 50 freestyle, DU sophomore Spencer Fronk (pictured on left) posted a career-best time in the 200 individual medley in 1:50.41.  That landed him in sixth-place overall.  Carlos Maciel ended in 14th after a time of 1:51.84 in the consolation heat.

The final event of the night was the 200 medley relay and the Big Red, led by the foursome of Barczak, Ben Snader, Robert Barry, and Quinn Bartlett combined for a time of 1:30.35. 

On Thursday the Big Red will compete in the 200 freestyle relay, the 400 IM, 100 butterfly, 200 freestyle and the 400 medley relay.  Preliminaries will start at 10 a.m. and finals will commence at 6 p.m.  Live video coverage is provided by the NCAA free of charge.

Photos by Oscar Salinas