Amherst in Search of First NESCAC Championship Title

AMHERST, MA – Championship season is set to begin for the Amherst College men's swimming and diving team, as the Lord Jeffs will hit the road for this weekend's NESCAC Championships. The three-day event begins Friday, Feb. 27 with preliminary heats in the morning and championship races in the evening at the Wesleyan University Natatorium.

Fans unable to attend the event can follow all of the action live via the internet on D3Cast. Competition will get underway each day with preliminary heats at 10 a.m. Finals will begin at 6 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, and 5:30 p.m. on Sunday. Tickets are $6 per session or $10 for a day pass for adults, and $1 per session for children and students. Doors will open two hours prior to the heats and finals. A complete championship schedule along with real-time results will be available on the NESCAC website.

Amherst will look to continue its dominance in the freestyle races, as the Lord Jeffs hold this year's top time in the 50-, 100-, 500-, 1000- and 1650-yard events. While senior tri-captain Christian Witzke has dominated the sprint freestyles with the NESCAC's top time in the 50 (21.36) and 100 (46.95), first-year sensation Ryan Lichtenfels has been unstoppable in the distance races. 

In addition to boasting the best time in the 500-yard freestyle, Lichtenfels' time of 9:34.60 in the 1000 is nearly six seconds faster than the conference's second best time, while his 16:21.43 in the 1650 is nearly 15 seconds ahead of the next fastest time. Looking to add depth to the freestyle races after successful dual meet seasons are junior Tad Homchick and sophomore Alex Fraser, who have been close behind Witzke and Lichtenfels in the freestyles throughout the season. 

First-year Tim White and sophomore Reid Fitzgerald will highlight the backstroke events for Amherst. White holds the conference's top time in the 200 (1:55.56), which he got in a key victory at Williams. The first-year trio of Bart Federak, Mike O'Connor and Ben McBratney will lead the breaststrokers, with Federak and O'Connor holding the second and third best times in the 200-yard event this season. 

Senior Kai Robinson was named Diver of the Meet at last year's NESCAC Championships.

The most successful butterfly event for Amherst this year has been the 200, in which the Jeffs hold three of the NESCAC's top seven times. Senior C.J. Holmes' 1:56.69 is the third fastest time on the year, while sophomore Ryan Colby's 1:58.03 is fifth. 

In the 200-yard individual medley, Amherst holds eight of the top 20 times this year. Federak and Lichtenfels lead the way with a 1:57.78 and 1:58.51, respectively, for the conference's fastest and third fastest times. Lichtenfels also boasts the top time in the 400 IM (4:12.75). 

Amherst has been just as dominant in the freestyle relays. Witzke, Homchick and Fraser helped Amherst set a meet record in the 200 and a pool record in the 400 at last year's NESCAC Championships, and this year they have swam the fastest times in the 400 and 800. The trio teamed up with Lichtenfels to swim a dominating 800 that is more than eight seconds faster than the conference's second best time. 

It is no surprise that reigning NESCAC and NCAA Diver of the Meet Kai Robinson holds the conference's top scores in the 1-meter and 3-meter diving events this year. At last year's conference championships, Robinson won the 1-meter with a score of 522.95, while his 558.65 on the 3-meter board set a new meet record. 

Williams College has claimed seven NESCAC titles, including each of the last six, while Amherst has finished as the runner-up on three occasions (2003, 2004, 2007). The Jeffs will be looking to continue their impressive season, which includes the first dual meet win over Williams since 2004.