March 23, 2013

Denison posts eighth NCAA runner-up finish

Comebacks are never an easy task in the sport of swimming & diving.  Denison entered the night trailing their rivals from Kenyon by 47.5 points.  The Big Red had the upper hand in the 200 backstroke and the 3-meter board, but Kenyon had a knock-out blow waiting in the 100 freestyle.

When the smoke cleared, Kenyon College came away with the team national championship with 499.5 points.  Denison finished second with 428 points while MIT came in third with 334. 

In 2011, Denison won its first of two-straight national championships by roaring back from a 35-point deficit, and stunning the Lords by one point in the final event of the championship.  There would be no miraculous rally in 2013, but there were plenty of special moments for the Big Red on Saturday in Shenandoah, Texas.

Junior Al Weik kicked things off just as he has in each of his previous two years as a member of the Denison team.  He ran away with the national championship in the 1650 freestyle.  While he didn't surpass his own national record of 15:04.85, he did win the race by more than one full lap, finishing in 15:09.63.  Second-place went to Drew Ledwith of Keene State who finished the mile-long swim in 15:24.50.

For Weik, it marked his seventh career national championship, which moves him into third-place in terms of total national championships at Denison.  His five individual event national championships is bested by only Aaron Cole '00, who graduated with seven.

Weik's win closed the gap with Kenyon to 41.5 points but the 100 freestyle was next and after an excellent performance in preliminaries, the Lords were poised to make a move.  While Denison placed Carlos Maciel 14th (45.29) and Spencer Fronk 15th (45.31), Kenyon swimmers occupied first-place, third, fifth, eighth, and 16th place, which equated to a 62-point swing in favor of the Lords.

Denison would counter with a meet-best 40-point effort in the 200 backstroke.  Senior Quinn Bartlett broke his former teammate, Robert Barry's, national record in prelims with a time of 1:45.65.  In the final, Grinnell's Michael Brus would best Bartlett's time, winning the event in 1:44.81.  Bartlett placed third in 1:46.08 and Sean Chabot followed in fifth in 1:48.74.  In the consolation heat, Jackson Humphrey won the race and placed ninth in 1:47.70 while first-year Matt Montague placed 16th in 1:52.18.

Denison's other point surge would come in the men's 3-meter dive competition as the Big Red had first-year Ben Lewis and senior Gabe Dixson among the 24 entries.  Lewis, who became the college's first male national champion in diving on Thursday night, just missed qualifying for Saturday night's finals in the 3-meter board.  His score of 473.45 placed him 13th overall. 

Meanwhile, Dixson did qualify for the championship final.  Over his final three dives, Dixson would post scores of 69.6, 61.6 and 64.8.  His final dive vaulted him from third-place and into second-place with 547.90 points.   Dixson leaves Denison as the most decorated male diver in school history.  The New Albany, Ohio native scored in all three of his national appearances with two runner-up finishes, one third-place finish, one fourth-place, one fifth and one sixth in his six career events at nationals.

Two points came from freshman Joe Brunk in the 200 breaststroke as he placed 15th in 2:03.78, and the 400 free relay of Chabot, Fronk, Maciel and Bartlett touched in third with 2:59.23. 

For the week, DU posted three event national titles and 17 top-8 finishes.  This is the eighth second-place finish for Denison men's swimming & diving at the national meet.  It also marks the program's eighth-straight top-3 finish and the 30th consecutive top-10 finish at nationals.

In the post-meet awards ceremony, Denison's Jason Glorius was named the NCAA men's diving Coach of the Year.  This is his first national Coach of the Year award.  He is the third Denison diving coach to win the award, joining Dan Eddingfield (1988) and Lynn Schweizer (1986).