Amherst Earns Runner-up Finish at NCAA Championships for Second Straight Year
OXFORD, OH – Amherst College took home second place at the 27th Annual NCAA Division III Women’s Swimming and Diving Championships thanks to six championship meet records and strong performances across the board. The Lord Jeffs racked up 341 points and trailed only 22-time national champion Kenyon College at the end of the weekend, earning a runner-up finish for the second consecutive year. The national championships were hosted by the College of Wooster in the Corwin M. Nixon Aquatic Center at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio.
For the second consecutive year, Amherst coach Nick Nichols was named the Swimming Coach of the Meet and senior Brittany Sasser (Belmont, MA) was named the Swimmer of the Meet. Nichols led the Jeffs to their second consecutive runner-up finish despite not competing in several events, while Sasser won two individual events and was part of three relay event victories.
Amherst got off to an impressive start at the 2008 NCAA Division III Women’s Swimming and Diving Championships, landing in second place after the first day of competition with 122 points. The Lord Jeffs competed in only four of six events on day one but made each one count, finishing with a third-place and second-place finish to go along with a pair of first-place times.
After placing second at the 2008 NESCAC Championships, Amherst’s 200-yard Freestyle Relay team of first-year Kendra Stern (Albuquerque, NM), Sasser, junior Erin Morrison (Old Greenwich, CT) and Kendra’s older sister, Meaghan (Albuquerque, NM) placed third on Thursday with a time of 1:35.65 behind Kenyon and Denison.
Sasser finished second in the 200-yard Individual Medley with a time of 2:01.27, improving on her time of 2:03.97 that was good enough for a win at the NESCAC Championships. Her time would have been good enough for a new NCAA Championship record, but she was edged by Washington and Jefferson’s Kaitlyn Orstein. Sasser teamed up with the Stern sisters and sophomore Ellen Fitzgerald (Indianapolis, IN) to win the 400-yard Medley Relay with a time of 3:46.87, nearly a four-second improvement on their NESCAC Championship first-place time of 3:50.34.
Highlighting the first day was Kendra Stern, who continued her exceptional rookie season by setting a new NCAA Championship record in the 500-yard Freestyle. Her time of 4:52.34 ousted the previous record by nearly three seconds and was a five-second improvement on her conference championship time of 4:57.42.
Friday was much of the same for the Jeffs, who competed in five of the day’s seven events and finished the night with three new NCAA Championship records. Kendra Stern became the first NESCAC woman in history to complete the 200-yard Freestyle in less than 1:50 (1:49.18), but she took it one step further on Friday by touching the wall in 1:47.19, surpassing the previous mark of 1:49.02 set during the 2006 national championships. Coming in behind Kendra was big sister Meaghan in second place with a solid time of 1:50.34.
Sasser entered the 2008 national championships having never lost in a Backstroke event and Friday proved to be no different for the senior standout, as she won the 100-yard Backstroke with a championship-record time of 53.85—breaking the previous mark of 54.72 that she set in 2007.
Sasser and the Stern sisters once again teamed up—this time with junior Alex Lee (Piedmont, CA)—to compete in the 800-yard Freestyle Relay. The four Lord Jeffs had set a NESCAC meet record earlier in the season with a time of 7:30.29, but they shattered that mark—and the previous NCAA Championship record—by finishing Friday’s event with an astonishing time of 7:22.78. Last year’s Amherst relay team had also put in a championship-record time, but this year’s squad demolished that time by nearly seven seconds.
Also earning points for the Jeffs was the 200-yard Medley Relay team comprised of Fitzgerald, Morrison, senior Lisa Pritchard (Saratoga Springs, NY) and sophomore Kendall Dacey (West Roxbury, MA), which placed seventh in the event with a time of 1:47.85. Rounding out Amherst’s participants on Friday was junior Kara MacLaverty (Kenilworth, IL), who just barely missed earning points for her team as she finished 17th in the 400-yard Individual Medley at 4:36.66.
Despite the Jeffs’ three wins, the Lord Jeffs were unable to make up any ground on a deep Kenyon squad that had racked up 389.5 points after two days compared to runner-up Amherst’s 255. Also competing for runner-up honors was Denison, which finished the second day with 240 points.
Amherst wrapped up its championship weekend by competing in only four of Saturday’s seven events, putting in the top time in three of those events. Nobody was surprised to see Sasser cap off her collegiate career with a victory in the 200-yard Backstroke, as the senior touched the wall in 1:56.33 to break the previous NCAA Championship record that she set last year (1:57.55). Sasser went out with a bang, finishing more than seven seconds ahead of the second-place swimmer in the 200.
Also unsurprising was Kendra Stern’s victory in the 100-yard Freestyle with a time of 49.78, which was just shy of the NCAA Championship record (49.46). Meaghan Stern placed 13th in the event at 52.34, as both sister continued to earn significant points for the Lord Jeffs, who were battling for another runner-up finish.
Making her debut at the national championships was Amherst first-year Meggie Meisinger (St. Louis, MO), who competed in the 3-meter Diving event. Meisinger earned a score of 392.80, which was good enough for 15th place to give the Lord Jeffs another two points toward the final standings.
The final event of the weekend for Amherst was the 400-yard Freestyle Relay. Meaghan and Kendra Stern teamed up with Sasser and Morrison in the 200-yard Freestyle Relay on day one and placed third, but in the 400 the quad of Jeffs managed to break yet another NCAA Championship record. Their time of 3:23.64 broke the previous record of 3:24.95, which was set by Kenyon College and had stood for 10 years.
The Lord Jeffs will certainly miss sure-thing Sasser next year, but they will return a great deal of talent in several areas, with more great things likely to come from Kendra Stern and her knack for breaking records.
AMHERST WEEKEND RESULTS
*NCAA Championship Record
200-yard Freestyle Relay
Kendra Stern, Brittany Sasser, Erin Morrison, Meaghan Stern - 3rd Place (1:35.65)
Kendra Stern – 1st Place (4:52.34)*
Meaghan Stern – 6th Place (4:58.95)
200-yard Individual Medley
Brittany Sasser - 2nd Place (2:01.27)
400-yard Medley Relay
Brittany Sasser, Ellen Fitzgerald, Kendra Stern, Meaghan Stern – 1st Place (3:46.87)
200-yard Medley Relay
Lisa Pritchard, Ellen Fitzgerald, Kendall Dacey, Erin Morrison – 7th Place (1:47.85)
400-yard Individual Medley
Kara MacLaverty – 17th Place (4:36.66)
Kendra Stern – 1st Place (1:47.19)*
Meaghan Stern – 2nd Place (1:50.34)
1st Place (53.85)*
800-yard Freestyle Relay
Kendra Stern, Brittany Sasser, Alex Lee, Meaghan Stern – 1st Place (7:22.78)*
Brittany Sasser - 1st Place (1:56.33)*
Kendra Stern – 1st Place (49.78)
Meaghan Stern – 13th (52.34)
Meggie Meisinger – 15th Place (392.80)
400-yard Freestyle Relay
Kendra Stern, Brittany Sasser, Erin Morrison, Meaghan Stern – 1st Place (3:23.64)*