Lord Jeffs Heading to Bowdoin in Search of First NESCAC Title

Courtesy of the NESCAC

AMHERST, MA – The Amherst College men's swimming and diving team will be in search of its first conference title this weekend when the Lord Jeffs head to Bowdoin College for the 2011 NESCAC Championship in Brunswick, Maine. 

Competition at Leroy Greason Pool will get underway each day with preliminary heats at 10 a.m. Finals will begin at 6 p.m. on Friday, 5:50 p.m. Saturday, and 5:30 p.m. on Sunday. Tickets are $6 per session or $30 for an all-session pass for adults and $2 per session for children and students or $10 for an all-session pass. Doors will open two hours prior to the heats and finals. A complete championship schedule and links to real-time results and a live webcast is available on the NESCAC website.

Defending conference champion Williams has claimed nine out of 10 NESCAC titles and each of the past eight, but the Lord Jeffs are coming off their first undefeated dual meet season since 2004 and are primed to take over the throne. Over the past five years, Tufts and Amherst have finished every NESCAC meet in the top three behind the Ephs. 

Part of Williams' success at last year's championship came from its dominance of the freestyle events. While the rival Lord Jeffs won half of the six individual freestyle crowns, it was the host Ephs with more performers on the podium for the championship races than any other squad. For the Ephs, junior Ben Wampler is the top returner in the 50-yard freestyle—finishing second last year—and has one of the fastest times in the conference this winter. 

Wampler not only unseated Amherst senior Alex Fraser as the 100-yard freestyle champion but also prevented Fraser's bid from earning three freestyle titles for the second consecutive year. Fraser, who holds the championship record in the 100 and the 500, has been a consistent performer in the mid-distance freestyle events over his career at the NESCAC championships. After placing second in both the 200 and the 500 in his first appearance in 2008, Fraser won both races in 2009 and again in 2010. 

The Ephs' Roberson looks to complete a rare feat this year, as he enters the weekend in search of a fourth consecutive crown in the 1,000-yard freestyle. The 1,650 has belonged to Amherst junior Ryan Lichtenfels over the past two conference meets, setting a new standard in the event two years ago before repeating last year. Roberson has been the runner-up to Lichtenfels both times after winning the event as a first-year.

All three breaststroke champions from last winter will be in attendance this weekend. Bowdoin's Nathan Mecray will look to defend his 50-yard breaststroke title, as he currently owns the top times in the conference in the 50 and 100. Amherst junior Ben McBratney joins Mecray among the league leaders and will be in search of a second-straight first place performance in the 100. In the 200, Williams' Paul Dyrkacz and fellow Eph Chris Corbett hold the best times in the NESCAC heading into the weekend.

During his first championship in 2009, Connecticut College junior Tim Walsh became the first competitor in meet history to win all three backstroke races, setting the championship record in the 200 in the process. Walsh returns this weekend looking to repeat the feat and looks to have a strong chance at doing so, as he boasts the top time in the conference in all three events. Last year, Walsh repeated in the 100 and finished second in the 50 and 200. Walsh's competition will include the likes of Amherst senior Reid Fitzgerald and junior EJ Testa of Tufts.

Middlebury senior John Dillon has consistently performed well in the butterfly over his career with the Panthers, coming away with the 100 and 200 a year ago, setting a championship record during the 100 prelims with a time of 48.84. The pair of butterfly victories combined with a winning time in the 50-yard backstroke earned Dillon Swimmer of the Meet honors. A host of first-year challengers have the opportunity to climb out of the pool with their first NESCAC title this weekend, including Amherst's Tyler Bulakul.

Four squads shared the five relay titles last winter, as only Middlebury won twice, taking the 400-yard freestyle and 400-yard medley relays. Although the Panthers hope to perform once again this weekend, Amherst has posted the best time so far in three different relay events.