Winter sports highlights from 2023-34

issue 01 | summer 2024

1. Women’s swimming & Diving: The most crowded piece of campus real estate is the trophy case belonging to the Big Red swimming and diving program. The men’s and women’s teams have won so much hardware that prestigious national keepsakes are stacked on bookshelves in the assistant coaches’ office.

They added another trophy to the collection in spring 2024, as the women placed second to Kenyon in the Division III NCAA Championships. The strong showing came a year after the Big Red women won the title.

“The standards here are the standards,” said coach Gregg Parini, whose women’s and men’s squads have combined for seven NCAA championships. “We are committed to self-improvement. I think the theme for both teams right now is, ‘There’s lots to feel good about and there’s a lot to learn.’”

The women, two-time NCAA champions, posted 36 All-American performances (31 individuals, five relays) at the 2024 NCAA meet in Greensboro, North Carolina. Tara Witkowski ’24 capped a brilliant Big Red career with three top-5 finishes in the 500-yard freestyle, 400 individual medley, and 1650 freestyle. Emily Harris ’26 finished second in the 200 freestyle and third in the 200 butterfly. Quinn Brown ’26 was fifth in 500 freestyle and eighth in 1,650 freestyle.

At the conference level, the Big Red earned NCAC coaching staff of the year honors in diving. Led by assistant coach Russ Bertram, the women’s team swept the top three spots in 1-meter and 3-meter competitions.

2. Men’s swimming & Diving: On the men’s side, a stellar final day at the NCAA meet vaulted the men to sixth overall.

The men, five-time NCAA champs, finished with 26 All-American performances (23 individual, three relay). Lucas Conrads ’25 was third in the 1,650 freestyle and seventh in the 500 freestyle. Patrick Daly ’25 placed sixth in the individual medley and 200 breaststroke. Luke Landis ’24 came fourth in the 1,650 freestyle.

3. Women’s basketball: Second-year coach Maureen Hirt guided the Big Red to an impressive turnaround while demonstrating great perseverance under adverse circumstances. Hirt was diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma in October 2023 just as her team was preparing for the start of the season.

“Although this seems like a lot, I have a very good prognosis and should be able to go on to coach many seasons with the Big Red,” Hirt said at the time. “I have been so blessed to have the Denison community supporting me through this journey.”

Her team responded with a 20-7 overall mark and a 10-4 record in conference play — doubling its win totals in each category from the previous season. The 20 victories were the most by the Big Red since the 2015-16 season.

Hirt was named a finalist for the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association coach of the year in Division III. She won the regional coach of the year award.

Abby Cooch ’27 was named regional rookie of the year and NCAC newcomer of the year. Her 99 assists were the most in the program in 13 seasons.

4. Men’s basketball: The program is gaining traction under coach Chris Sullivan. The 10-6 conference record marked the third consecutive season with at least 10 wins. The Big Red had never achieved that distinction in the NCAC era, which dates to 1983.

Ricky Radtke ’25, a second-team all-conference selection, set a program record with 65.2% shooting from the field.

5. Fencing: Head coach Peter Grandbois and assistant Rhys Douglas were named Eastern Women’s Fencing Conference coaching staff of the year. The club finished with a 29-16 overall mark and a No. 3 ranking among Division III programs in the U.S. Fencing Coaches Association.

Lal Ertun ’27 (foil) and Natalie Isberg ’26 (sabre) earned Division III All-American honors.

6. Men’s indoor track: Jacob Brown ’24 finished 18th in the heptathlon at the Division III NCAA indoor meet. He also won the conference meet in that event, with the Big Red coming fifth overall.

7. Women’s indoor track: The Big Red women were fifth in the NCAC meet. Sophia Ellerkmann ’24 led the way, winning the 400-meter dash and placing second in the 200-meter race.

8. Men’s squash: The Big Red finished with a 10-10 record, the best mark in the program’s four-year existence.

Juan Felipe Hernandez ’26 earned first-team All-Liberty League honors for a second consecutive season. Tarun Mammen ’25 and Jackson Bragman ’27 were second-team all-conference selections.

9. Women’s squash: The squad finished third in the Liberty League Championships and was 8-12 in the regular season.

Esme Adelman ’27 was named Liberty League rookie of the year. Along with Antoinette Ramsey ’25, Kate Manderlink ’26, and Lane Harding ’26, she was also one of four Denison first-team all-conference members.

Published May 2024
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