The Race to First Place

The longest race in college swimming is the 1,650-yard freestyle. Also known as the mile, it’s a grueling race that can test the will of even the best-trained athletes.

As tough as that particular race may be, that was not what Denison Head Coach Gregg Parini was referring to when he congratulated his team on “finishing the race.”

In March 2016, Denison’s 21 qualifiers totaled 455.5 points at the NCAA Division III Men’s Swimming & Diving Championship in Greensboro, N.C., to capture the College’s fourth national championship after three consecutive national runner-up finishes.

And the women’s swimming & diving team had an impressive national championship as well. Placing fourth overall, the team extended its streak of top-six national finishes to 25 years.

Junior Jack Lindell, a native of Edina, Minn., was named Swimmer of the Year after winning national championships in the 200 IM, 400 IM, 200 backstroke, and the 800 freestyle relay. One week later, Lindell was recognized in Sports Illustrated for his achievement.

The 2016 NCAA Division III Diver of the Year Ben Lewis ’16 spoke to the crowd at a campus rally organized for the team upon their return. Lewis and the team were appreciative of the support from campus. He was also quick to acknowledge the Denison swimming & diving alumni who had come before him—many of whom showed up in droves to support this year’s team in North Carolina.

“We talk a lot about how we stand upon the shoulders of those who came before us,” Lewis said. “We hope that this national title, and more importantly, the integrity and passion we brought to this entire season, will leave a lasting mark on not only the swimming & diving program but the College as a whole.” In addition to the awards that Lindell and Lewis brought home, Parini was named National Coach of the Year for the 10th time in his career.

It’s been four years since Denison’s last national championship—four years of two-a-days and 5 a.m. wake-up calls. It was a journey that started for the Class of 2016 in the fall of 2012, with the paint barely dry in the new Trumbull Aquatics Center. Now the men’s and women’s swimming & diving teams are back at it for the 2016-17 season hoping to land that championship again. At press time, it was looking promising. After beating Kenyon in November, the women were ranked No. 2 and the men No. 1 in the College Swimming Coaches Association Division III Top25.

Given the success of Denison’s teams this year, it wasn’t all that surprising to learn that the College has won its record 15th Dennis M. Collins North Coast Athletic Conference All-Sports Championship after five league titles and 20 top-five finishes during the 2015-16 school year. You can read about the award at denisonbigred.com.

Published December 2016