The Difference a Year Makes

UnCommon Ground - The Difference a Year Makes

Just like last year, Denison and rival Kenyon College led the competition at the NCAA Division III Men’s Swimming and Diving Championship as the schools headed into the final event, the 400 freestyle relay. And just like last year, the fans battled each other with cheers. On one side of the Indiana University Natatorium in Indianapolis, a purple crowd consumed the stands, roaring every time a Kenyon swimmer stepped up on the blocks. Opposite them, on the other side of the pool, Big Red fans roared back, and with every Denison swim and Denison dive, they sent up a booming Big Red chant. And just like last year, Denison had the upper hand heading into that final relay.

But that’s where the similarities end. This year, Denison had more than just a lead: they had an 87-point lead. And rather than needing a third or better to win the title (which they did in the 2011 meet by placing third by 0.32 seconds), a disqualification couldn’t stop them from becoming the 2012 NCAA champs. This year, they grabbed the runner-up trophy in the 400 freestyle relay by 0.19 seconds and won the meet by 81 points (600-519). So last year was no fluke, ladies and gentlemen. Denison is here to stay.

In addition to their new gold trophy, the men’s team has six individual national records and 56 All-American performances to show for it. Along the way to the college’s second consecutive—and third overall—national championship, the Big Red men collected six championship titles. Al Weik ’14 broke the national record in the 500 freestyle and won the event; he also defended his national title and broke his own national record in the 1650 freestyle. Weik also anchored the 800 freestyle relay, swimming with Sean Chabot ’14, Carlos Maciel ’14, and Spencer Fronk ’14 to win the event and break the national record set by Denison’s 2009 team.

Co-captain Robert Barry ’12 defended his crown in the 100 backstroke, and he broke the national record while leading off the 400 medley relay. That relay, swum by Barry, Damon Rosenburg ’15, Fronk, and M.J. Barczak ’12, won the event by more than two seconds and bested Kenyon’s national record. On the final day in Indy, Barry rounded out the first-place, record-clinching finishes with a 1:46.23 in the 200 backstroke, breaking the national record set last year by teammate Quinn Bartlett ’13. At the meet’s conclusion, head coach Gregg Parini was named the National Coach of the Year for the ninth time in his career. In addition to their championship titles and national records, the Big Red broke nine school records. “Going out on top as a senior,” Barry said, “it was sweeter this year than it was last year. We didn’t win by one point; we won by 80.”

The Big Red women closed out the meet with a third-place finish overall with 420 points. They were topped only by champion Emory University (639) and runner-up Williams College (453). Diver Katie Collins ’15 was the first Denison woman diver to qualify for the meet since 1992. In all, the Big Red women broke three school records, had 48 All-American performances, and brought home the women’s 16th top-three trophy in team history. “I could not have asked for a better group of women to compete with in my last meet,” co-captain Hilary Callen ’12 said. “Every one of my teammates swam with her heart. I will remember this group of women and this meet for the rest of my life.”

Published April 2012