Youth Prevails as Ladies win fifteenth national championship
A quick glance at Kenyon's roster in the 1998 National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division III women's swimming and diving championships revealed a lot of inexperience. Eight women--nearly half of the squad--were competing in the big event for the first time.
But that lack of experience was transcended by electrifying competitiveness as youth combined with veteran leadership for Kenyon's fifteenth consecutive Division III title. It is the longest national championship streak in NCAA history in any women's sport in any division.
All eight first-year Ladies scored in at least two events each to help Kenyon amass 687.5 points, the College's highest total in national competition since 1992. The Ladies won eleven of twenty events, including four of five relays, and set five Division III records en route to topping the final standings, which showed Denison University in second place with 522 points and the University of California at San Diego in third with 374. More than fifty institutions were represented in the three-day event hosted by Principia College at the St. Peter's Recplex in St. Louis, Missouri.
Kenyon junior Marisha Stawiski, who was named the Division III Swimmer of the Year, did her share in scoring points for the Ladies as she finished first in the 50 (:23.00), 100 (:50.14), and 200 (1:52.21) freestyle events, setting a Division III record in the 100. She won the 50 for the third consecutive year, becoming only the third woman in Division III history to accomplish that feat.
Stawiski swam the anchor laps for Kenyon's winning efforts in the 200 (1:33.68), 400 (3:24.95), and 800 (7:36.92) freestyle relays, with Division III record times in the 200 and 400. Kenyon's seventh woman to receive the Swimmer of the Year accolade, she was also part of the Ladies' runner-up unit in the 400 medley relay (3:52.13).
Stawiski was pushed throughout the meet by one of her own teammates, Michelle Engelsman, one of those first-year Ladies who responded impressively to the challenge of national competition. Engelsman provided Kenyon with its first win in the 100 backstroke (:58.07) since 1988 and took part in victories in the 200 and 400 freestyle relays and in the 200 medley relay (1:45.15). All three relay teams set Division III record times.
In the preliminaries of the 50-yard freestyle, Engelsman became the first woman in Division III history to break the twenty-three-second mark. She clocked an NCAA record time of :22.96 in the prelims and a time of :23.07 in the finals to finish second to Stawiski.
Engelsman's effort in the 100 backstroke was only part of a crucial performance that put distance between Kenyon and the rest of the field for the rest of the meet. While Engelsman finished first in that event, junior Katie Varda placed second (:58.16) and first-year Lady Erica Carroll placed fourth (:58.40). Kenyon owned a fifty-one point margin over Denison entering that race but outscored the Big Red 52-8 in the event to pull away.
There was a definite shift in momentum at the conclusion of the first night of competition, as Denison won the 400 medley relay. But it was only a temporary shift.
"We really didn't have a bad day in the entire meet," said Assistant Coach Gwynn Evans '94. "We lost the momentum a little after that race, but we came back on Friday morning and set the record straight. We regained the momentum in the morning and kept it going the rest of the meet."
That momentum was due in part to the efforts of the first-year Ladies, who were represented in the finals of five of the seven events contested on Friday.
Carroll was one of the first-year women to score in more than two events. She won in the 200 backstroke (2:04.78) and took part in the Ladies' winning efforts in the 200 medley and 400 freestyle relays. She was also part of the second-place effort in the 400 medley relay.
Junior Amelia Armstrong was another multiple winner, including a successful defense of her title in the 500 freestyle (4:58.54) for the second consecutive year. She also extended Kenyon's victory streak in the 400 individual medley to seven consecutive years by winning the event in a time of 4:25.12. Armstrong also swam in the winning 800 freestyle relay and placed second in the grueling 1,650 freestyle (17:07.40).
Varda was a key contributor in the relays, taking part in the victories in the 200 medley and 200 and 400 freestyles. She also finished second in the 100 backstroke.
Junior Erin Detwiler contributed to the victory in the 200 freestyle relay, which set the Division III record in the event in the preliminary races with a time of 1:33.22. Junior Sarah Buntzman and first-year Lady Elizabeth Foy contributed to the Ladies' win in the 800 freestyle relay.
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