Amherst Places Third at NESCAC Championships; Kai Robinson '09 Once Again Named Diver of the Meet

MIDDLETOWN, CT – The 2009 NESCAC Men's Swimming and Diving Championships concluded Sunday evening at the Wesleyan University Natatorium, with Amherst College placing third behind runner-up Tufts University and eight-time conference champion Williams College. 

Although Amherst's depth could not compete with that of Tufts and Williams, the Lord Jeffs' successful weekend included several records and national qualifying times. Amherst captured first place in 10 of the weekend's 24 events—three on Friday, three on Saturday and four on Sunday—to lead all schools, with Williams finishing first in seven events, Connecticut in five events and Tufts in two. At last year's conference championships Amherst won four events, as the Lord Jeffs' impressive group of first-years played a vital role this weekend.

Earning Diver of the Meet honors for the second year in a row was senior Kai Robinson (Vashon, WA), who defended his NESCAC titles in the 1- and 3-meter dives. Robinson scored a 527.75 in Friday's 1-meter event, leaving him less than one point shy of the NESCAC and meet record of 528.40. Sunday's 3-meter event resulted in another comfortable win, with Robinson scoring a 541.80 as the only diver to surpass 500 points. Amherst's Mary Ellen Clark was named the Diving Coach of the Year. 

Sophomore Alex Fraser (Willowbrook, IL) led the Amherst swimmers by winning the 100-, 200- and 500-yard freestyle races, all with NCAA automatic qualifying times. On Friday he swam a 4:27.36 in the 500 to set a new meet and pool record before his 1:38.35 won him the 200 on Saturday. Fraser's 44.81 in Sunday's 100 also marked a new meet and pool record. 

First-year Ryan Lichtenfels (McLean, VA) took home another two individual victories, including a dominating performance in the 1650-yard freestyle. In addition to setting a new NESCAC, meet and pool record with an NCAA automatic qualifying time of 15:25.99, he finished nearly 14 seconds ahead of the runner-up. Lichtenfels added an impressive win in the 400-yard individual medley with a time of 4:00.99 for an NCAA provisional qualifying performance that just barely missed the "A" cut. 

Also picking up a win for Amherst was first-year Bart Federak (Towaco, NJ), whose 1:54.30 in the 200-yard individual medley marked an NCAA "B" time. 

Fraser and Lichtenfels also teamed up to lead Amherst to a win in the 800-yard freestyle relay. The duo joined senior Christian Witzke (Jacksonville, FL) and first-year Tim White (Centerport, NY) to set a new NESCAC, meet and pool record with an NCAA "B" time of 6:42.39. 

The weekend concluded with Amherst handily winning the 400-yard freestyle relay. Fraser joined junior Tad Homchick (Mercer Island, WA), Witzke and first-year Ben McBratney (Evanston, IL) to swim a 3:01.89 that set a new NESCAC, meet and pool record and just missed the "A" cut. The victory was the 10th of the weekend for the Jeffs, who will send an impressive group to the national championships later this month.

Other Amherst highlights included Friday's 200-yard freestyle relay team of Fraser, Witzke, Homchick and McBratney. The Jeffs placed third with an NCAA "B" time of 1:22.45, which bested the previous NESCAC record. Homchick also swam an NCAA "B" time in the 50-yard freestyle, with his 20.93 placing him sixth. 

Friday's most dominating race for Amherst was the 500-yard freestyle. In addition to Fraser's record-setting victory, the Jeffs placed four other swimmers in the top eight. Lichtenfels finished second with an NCAA "A" time of 4:28.70, White placed fourth with a "B" time (4:35.03), sophomore Ryan Colby (Birdsboro, PA) placed sixth with a "B" time of 4:37.45, and Witzke landed in eighth place (4:44.26). 

Friday night concluded with the 400-yard medley relay, which was one of the weekend's most exciting races. The Amherst team of sophomore Reid Fitzgerald (New York, NY), first-year Mike O'Connor (Cold Spring Harbor, NY), Witzke and Fraser finished in second with a time of 3:22.50, just four-tenths of a second behind Williams. The Jeffs would have set a new NESCAC, meet and pool record, but the Ephs' Norman Scott dominated the butterfly leg to give his team insurmountable breathing room. The first day concluded with Tufts holding a 66-point lead over Williams, with Amherst close behind in third place. 

Saturday's 200-yard medley relay team of Fitzgerald, Federak, McBratney and Homchick placed fourth with a "B" time of 1:33.25, while McBratney (50.85) and Homchick (50.99) each earned a "B" time in the 100-yard butterfly by placing sixth and seventh, respectively. Other "B" time performers for the Jeffs on Saturday included Witzke in the 200-yard freestyle (1:40.26), O'Connor (57.82), Federak (57.84) and McBratney (57.89) in the 100-yard breaststroke, and White (51.65) and Fitzgerald (51.89) in the 100-yard backstroke. Williams led Tufts by 51.5 points after day two, with Amherst drifting from the front of the pack still in third place. 

In addition to Lichtenfels' dominating 1650 on Sunday, White was the runner-up in the 200-yard backstroke with an NCAA automatic qualifying time of 1:50.54, while Fitzgerald finished sixth with a "B" time of 1:54.60. Fraser's victory in the 100 was accompanied by a fifth-place finish by Homchick, who earned another provisional qualifying time (46.27), as well as Witzke, who placed seventh (46.61). 

Federak bested the previous pool record in the 200-yard breaststroke with a time of 2:04.54 (NCAA "B"), but he was edged by Tyler Bonewell of Williams. O'Connor was close behind in third with a provisional qualifying time of 2:06.27. 

Additional award winners were Wesleyan's Dave Wilkinson as the Senior Diver of the Year (most diving points over four years), Williams' Tyler Bonewell as the Senior Swimmer of the Year (most swimming points over four years), Williams' Norman Scott as the Swimmer of the Meet, and Williams' Steve Kuster as Swimming Coach of the Year.

The 2009 NCAA Championships begin Wednesday, Mar. 18 and conclude Saturday, Mar. 21 at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis. The Lord Jeff men placed 10th at last year's national championships. 

2009 NESCAC Championship Results
1. Williams – 1,775.5
2. Tufts – 1,538
3. Amherst – 1,364
4. Connecticut – 957 
5. Wesleyan – 815.5 
6. Middlebury – 781.5 
7. Hamilton – 767.5 
8. Colby – 615 
9. Bates – 505.5 
10. Bowdoin – 485 
11. Trinity – 466.5 

Amherst College NESCAC Champions
100-yard freestyle: Alex Fraser (44.81) ^%!
200-yard freestyle: Alex Fraser (1:38.35) !
500-yard freestyle: Alex Fraser (4:27.36) ^%!
1650-yard freestyle: Ryan Lichtenfels (15:25.99) *^%!
200-yard IM: Bart Federak (1:54.30) $
400-yard IM: Ryan Lichtenfels (4:00.99) $
400-yard freestyle relay: Tad Homchick, Christian Witzke, Ben McBratney, Alex Fraser (3:01.89) *^%$
800-yard freestyle relay: Ryan Lichtenfels, Christian Witzke, Tim White, Alex Fraser (6:42.39) *^%$
1-meter diving: Kai Robinson (527.75)
3-meter diving: Kai Robinson (541.80)

* NESCAC record
^ Meet record
% Wesleyan Natatorium record
! NCAA automatic qualifying time
$ NCAA provisional qualifying time