The Denison Big Red's North Coast Athletic Conference Championship reign continued on Saturday night as they captured their fifth-consecutive conference title at the C.T. Branin Natatorium in Canton, Ohio. After 20 events, Denison totaled 1,654 points, besting rival Kenyon by 49.5 points.
Heading into the final event of the championship, the 400 free relay, all Denison needed to do was avoid being disqualified and they would walk away with NCAC hardware for the sixth time in program history. However, the Big Red foursome of Ashley Yearwood, Morgan Nuess, Mary Van Leuven and Alyssa Swanson wouldn't settle for anything less than success.
The DU group trailed rival Kenyon by 16 hundredths of a second when the anchor legs hit the pool. Not to be robbed of her 18th conference title, Swanson put the Big Red ahead by four tenths of a second at the 50 split. Fighting exhaustion from the three-day championship meet, the senior stretched out to touch the wall seven thousandths of a second before Kenyon's Hillary Yarosh. The time of 3:25.84 was an NCAA automatic qualifying time.
In the opening event, first-year Taylor Johns and Swanson finished two-three with 'B' cut performances in the 1650 freestyle. Johns' time of 16:57.09 was a season best, while Swanson clocked in at 17:03.68. Freshman Mary Cullen placed seventh in the event with a time of 17:32.05.
After finishing as the runner-up in the 200 backstroke in each of the last three seasons, senior Lindsay Zeberlein enjoyed her day in the sun. Zeberlein not only won the event, but she broke the meet record and posted an 'A' cut time. The senior clocked in at 2:00.65. Backing up Zeberlein were Kate Wright and Meghan Bagley. The DU duo took sixth and seventh with 'B' cut times of 2:05.94 and 2:06.75. Victoria Masney finished 10th in the consolation heat, while Sarah Yu took 11th.
After gaining 18 points on Kenyon in the 200 back, the Big Red expanded their lead by 20 with performances in the 100 free and 200 breaststroke. First-year Marissa Bednarek won the 200 breast with a season-best 'B' cut time of 2:21.30, while Natalie Lugg finished right behind at 2:21.45.
In the 100 freestyle, Yearwood, Nuess and Van Leuven all recorded provisional times. Yearwood (51.48) placed second, while Nuess (52.10) and Van Leuven (52.13) finished four-five. Senior Maddie Armitage won the consolation heat with a time of 52.87.
Denison maintained its 42-point advantage after occupying spots two, four and five in the 200 butterfly. Michelle Howell took second after checking in at 2:04.61. Rookies Claire Van Fossen and Krysta Garbarino finished fourth and fifth with 'B' cut times of 2:05.17 and 2:05.80, respectively.
After it was all said and done, the Big Red won 12 NCAC titles, posted three 'A' cut performances and broke three conference meet records. During the award presentation, Gregg Parini was named NCAC Women's Swimming Coach of the Year. For Parini it was his 15th NCAC Coach of the Year honor.
Freshman diver Kelly Frazier was named NCAC Women's Diver of the Year after winning both the one and three-meter events. Jason Glorius was named NCAC Women's Diving Coach of the Year for the third time in the last four years.
The win marked the sixth NCAC title for Denison overall and the program's fifth-straight . Denison's first conference title came in 2004.