While last year's finish at the NCAA Division III Men's Swimming & Diving Championship had all of the ingredients of a classic Hollywood drama, the 2012 edition was unabashed popcorn-fueled action. Lo and behold, both scripts ended the same, as the Denison Big Red hoisted the program's second consecutive national championship.
Denison finished with a four-day total of 600 points while second-place Kenyon ended with 519 points. The Big Red entered the day with a 117 point lead and two of its strongest events on the schedule.
Sophomore Al Weik pulled the curtain on the championship with a national record in the 500 freestyle on Wednesday night. The second-year star was back on Saturday to defend his crown in the 1650 freestyle. Weik did a little bit more than defend his title. He broke his own national record in the event with a time of 15:04.85. Weik also closed the mile-long race in style, posting a 25.09 second 50-yard split. For the week, Weik ended with three national championships, which were all Division III records. He was also the runner-up in the 400 individual medley.
After the mile, Denison's lead stood at 117 points, however an impressive showing by Kenyon in the 100 freestyle sent 76 points to the Kenyon corner, creating a 65-point swing in the standings. Suddenly Kenyon trailed by just 52 points.
Luckily, Denison's surname of late has been Backstroke U. With no shortage of star-power on the Big Red squad, senior Robert Barry wowed the spectators in IU Natatorium once again with his national record-breaking swim in the 200 backstroke. A runner-up in the event last year to teammate Quinn Bartlett, Barry would go on to break his teammate's record with a time of 1:46.23.
The 200 backstroke was an event where Denison could take back that triple-digit lead and that's exactly what happened thanks to Barry, Bartlett, Sean Chabot, Jackson Humphrey and Michael DeSantis as they placed first, sixth, seventh, eighth and 15th, respectively. That pushed 58 points back into Denison's corner and allowed the Big Red to take a 103 point lead into the 200 breaststroke and effectively clinch the program's second national championship.
With no swimmers in the consolation or final of the 200 breast, Kenyon managed to score 17 points in the event. Even if DU were to be disqualified from the 400 free relay, their 87 point lead entering the relay would allow them to go home champions.
In last year's 400 free relay it was Spencer Fronk who out touched Emory's anchor to place third and clinch the title. No last second heroics were needed on this night, but the foursome of Sean Chabot, Carlos Maciel, Fronk and Mike Barczak did send DU out with another thrilling finish. When Barczak hit the water Denison trailed Johns Hopkins in third place, but a 44.18 split for the senior landed DU in second place in the relay with a time of 2:58.48. For Barczak that capped off a stellar career that was made up of 23 All-American swims. That ranks him seventh on the all-time list at Denison.
Following Denison and Kenyon in the standings was Emory University with 345 points, and MIT placed fourth with 245 points.
Over the course of the four-day meet, Denison's men set six NCAA Division III records. They won six event national championships and tallied eight second or third place finishes. Denison divers Gabe Dixson, Connor Dignan and Phil Meyer scored a total of 66 points toward the cause, and the two backstroke events translated to 126 points for DU.
In addition to the program's second national championship, it also marks the 15th top-3 finish by a Denison men's swimming & diving team in school history. Since 2006 Denison has finished no worse than third place at nationals. In the post-meet awards ceremony, head coach Gregg Parini was named the National Coach of the Year for the ninth time in his career.
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