GRANVILLE, Ohio—The 2018 North Coast Athletic Conference Men's Swimming & Diving Championship is shaping up to be a classic. Through 14 of 21 events, Denison holds a slim six-point lead over Kenyon College. The Big Red has totaled 1,284.5 points while Kenyon sits in second at 1,278.5.
Denison won five of seven events on Friday night and set two new conference marks. DU also overcame 89 unanswered points by Kenyon in the 1-meter dive, allowing them to carry the team lead into the final day of competition at the Trumbull Aquatics Center.
Things were kicked off by Denison's 200 medley relay championship to open the night. DU entered the meet with the nation's fastest time in the event at 1:28.74. The team of Carson Clear, Kenny Fox, Liam Marsden-Readford and Kymani Senior came .01 away from the conference record, but broke the Trumbull Aquatics Center record in 1:29.15. It was Denison's sixth-straight victory in the 200 medley relay at the NCAC Championships.
Clear, a junior, shattered his entry PR of 49.33 to set a new NCAC and pool record with a time of 47.87 to win the 100 backstroke. Clear supplanted former Denison national champion Robert Barry '12 from the conference record book. Jason Wesseling followed in second place in 49.72 and PJ Desmet won the B-Final with a PR and a 'B' cut of 49.96.
Denison junior Matt Hedman posted a new conference and pool record in the 400 individual medley as he completed the grueling event in 3:54.00. His career-best was 3:56.09 set at the Miami Invitational earlier this year. It marked the first career conference championship for Hedman. The previous NCAC record was set by Kenyon's Andrew Chevalier (3:54.18) in 2014.
Francis Biagioli and Ryan Stevenson followed in second and third-place respectively. Biagioli continued his strong meet with a PR of 3:56.71 and Stevenson also posted a season-best 'B' cut time of 3:58.53. In preliminaries, John Stauffer posted 4:00.08. He followed that up with a 4:01.46 to finish fifth.
Senior continued his bid for NCAC Swimmer of the Year honors by winning the 100 fly with a PR and 'B' cut time of 48.69. This is Senior's fifth NCAC Championship in five finals swims. He is also the first Denison swimmer since Jade Sobek in 2004 to win the 100 fly and 50 free at the same conference championship. Marsden-Readford was the runner-up in 49.02. He touched in 48.89 in prelims. Wesseling added 24 points to Denison's cause with a ninth-place finish in 51.54.
DU entered the 200 free leading Kenyon by 41 points. After the event, Denison's lead ballooned to 149 points thanks to eight DU swimmers in the top-14. Drake Horton led the contingent with his first career NCAC Championship with a career-best 'B' cut time of 1:38.11. Matt McHugh took second in 1:39.76 and Desmet was fourth in 1:40.02. Aaron Saccurato (6th – 1:40.18), Zach Wagner (8th – 1:40.64), Nick Froemming (1:40.98), James Baker (11th – 1:40.53) and Ben Burdick (14th – 1:41.82) closed out the event for DU.
For years Denison feasted on the diving events, but this year Kenyon has returned the favor. The Lords finished first, fourth and eighth in the standings to post 89 points to pull within six points of the overall lead.
On Saturday, the 2018 NCAC Championship will wrap-up with the 1,650 free, 100 IM, 200 back, 100 free, 200 breast, 200 fly and the 400 free relay. Preliminaries begin at 10 a.m. followed by finals at 6:30 p.m. Denison is looking for its 10th consecutive NCAC Men's Swimming & Diving Championship.