They are hungry for more.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that the Denison’s men’s and women’s swimming and diving teams are back in contention for yet another North Coast Athletic Conference (NCAC) championship title this season.
Year in and year out, it’s Denison and Kenyon sitting atop the final standings of the NCAC Championship meet for both the men and the women.
While it may be all but a forgone conclusion that these two programs be in contention for a conference crown, it’s always a battle to see who will finish on top.
The Big Red men earned their tenth consecutive NCAC Championship last winter on their way to becoming NCAA Division III National Champions.
Francis Biagioli ‘20 speaks to the attitude his team has maintained throughout the season: “We are certainly not letting last year’s title get to our heads, and we are well aware that highly competitive programs from around the country are going to come at us with everything they have.”
The women, however, fell short to Kenyon last year, marking just the second time in ten years that they have failed to secure the NCAC Championship title.
Casey Kirby ‘20 shares some insight into how she and her team is taking this portion of the season step-by-step: “A lot of times people are solely focused on Nationals, but the NCAC Conference Championship is just important because it is the main meet where people qualify to go to Nationals.”
In their final dual meet of the season, the Big Red took care of business on the road against the Ohio Wesleyan Battling Bishops.
The men’s team won by a final mark of 183-102, and the women’s team 193-101.
Both squads enjoyed extremely strong performances from a number of freshmen in the last meet of the regular season where the majority of the upperclassmen got to rest.
Liam Picozzi ‘22 led the way for the Big Red with three victories on the day in the 50 backstroke (24.37 seconds), 100 backstroke (52.69 seconds) and the 200 medley relay. His relay team consisted of fellow freshmen, Richie Kurlich, Colin MacMillan and Nicholas Czepukaitis.
On the women’s side, the Battling Bishops proved no match for a number of dominant Big Red freshmen who did their part to secure the victory.
Winners included Sophia Gazguls ‘22 who took home first place in the 50 free (25.45 seconds) and the 100 free (55.23 seconds) and Grace Kacmarek ‘22 who earned victories in the 300 free (3:03.07) and the 500 free (5:15.41).
Both the men’s and women’s teams also dominated the diving boards on Saturday with 1-2 finishes from Liam Simmons ‘22 and Brendan Downey ‘22 along with strong showings from both boards from Naomi Clayton ‘20, Allison Fitzgerald ‘20 and others.
Ariela Katz ‘22 is one of a number of freshmen to have contributed to the team’s success thus far in her first season of collegiate swimming. Katz speaks to some of the difficulties she and her fellow freshmen teammates dealt with early on.
“It was challenging trying to learn all of the new things we were doing both in the weight room and the pool, getting used to a completely new coaching style and adjusting to all new teammates and to the rigorous practices. I was able to overcome it through the help and support of my teammates and upperclassmen who guided not only me, but all of the freshman class through practices and our first few meets of the season and showed us the ropes,” said Katz.
These two programs are textbook examples of how elevated levels of effort and focus in training sessions can make all of the difference when competitions roll around.
Across the board, each and every one of the swimmers and divers on these teams are devoted to their craft in every possible sense, and it shows. The kind of success these programs have had over the past decade does not happen by accident.
Biagioli looks ahead to the part of the season he and his teammates have been working toward all year, and compares this year’s team to last year’s.
“I always emphasize the fact that this year’s team is different from last year’s team and that none of the performances from last year have any bearing on how we perform this year. The team this year is a new team with new goals, a new attitude and new potential. As long as we remain focused, stay competitive and keep ourselves from becoming complacent, I think a lot of great things can happen,” said Biagioli.
Denison will be hosting the NCAC Championship meet at the Trumbull Aquatics Center from Wednesday, February 13 through Saturday, February 16.