The Denison men's and women's swimmers and divers check into the 2011 North Coast Athletic Conference Championship looking for their third consecutive conference championship. Last year the men and women combined to win 26 of the 40 contested events and the Big Red return 10 individuals who won championships in 2010.
Despite all of the returning stars for Denison, this year's meet is taking a slightly different approach after some fast swims earlier this season. Unlike the previous two years, eight of Denison's top swimmers will enter this year's meet unrested.
"We're not as prepped as we have been, but our goal is to get as many national qualifiers as we can," stated head coach Gregg Parini. "I think this team has prepared so well. Top to bottom, this team has had such an honest season. No one has compromised their season in any way."
Leading the way for the women's team is senior Ksenia Golovkina (Newton, Mass./Newton South) who is enjoying her best year at DU. Golovkina is a 9-time conference champion and aside from her prowess in relays, she is a top contender in both breaststroke events.
Joining Golovkina as a defending NCAC champ is sophomore Alyssa Swanson (Surora, Colo./Regis Jesuit) and juniors Hilary Callen (Oswego, N.Y./Oswego), Emily Schroeder (Fishers, Ind./Hamilton Southeastern), Laurel Brabson (Boonsboro, Md./Boonsboro) and Marit Wangstad (Wayzata, Minn./The Blake School).
Swanson had an impressive debut at last year's NCAC Championship. She posted wins in the 100 freestyle and 200 freestyle to go along with four relay championships. In the 200 freestyle, Swanson set a new conference record a year ago and this year she checks in with the nation's second fastest time at 1:50.17. In last year's 200 free, Swanson, Callen and Wangstad placed 1-2-3 in the final standings, respectively.
In the distance freestyle, Callen returns as the favorite after sweeping the 1650 free and the 500 free in each of her first two years. A 6-time conference champion, Callen will also swim on the Big Red's 800 free relay team. After her time of 4:57.42 in the 500 free at Miami in December, Callen has already reached her 'A' cut to nationals.
One of the breakout stars from last year's championship was Schroeder who swept both IM events in addition to her win in the 200 backstroke and the 800 free relay. Schroeder is a 5-time NCAC champ and will be gunning for her 'A' cut this weekend.
The women's diving events have been swept by the Big Red in each of the last three seasons. This year, senior Lizzie Litwak (Loudonville, N.Y./Albany Academy for Girls) and first-year's Rachel Keselring (West Bloomfield, Mich./West Bloomfield) and Dallas Manson (Torrington, Conn./Torrington) will look to continue that string of success.
On the men's side, junior Robert Barry (Richmond, Va./St. Christopher's) has returned from a fall semester abroad and has shown no ill effects from his time away from the team. Barry quickly notched an 'A' cut in the 100 backstroke against Grove City and along with junior Michael DeSantis (Beverly Hills, Mich./Groves), sophomore Quinn Bartlett (Berwyn, Pa./Conestoga) and first-year Sean Chabot (Washington, Mich./Stoney Creek), Denison boasts four of the top backstrokers in the nation. Barry is a 6-time conference champ and is coming off three titles a year ago.
Senior Jake Lewing (Yardley, Pa./Pennsbury), the 2010 NCAC Swimmer of the Year, is back after titles in the 200 IM, the 200 breast and the 400 medley relay. Also returning is junior Dan Thurston (Ann Arbor, Mich./Huron), last year's champion in the 500 freestyle and the 400 IM along with junior Mike Barczak (Beverly Hills, Mich./Brother Rice), sophomore Joe Katich (Toledo, Ohio/St. Francis de Sales) and senior Kyle Chabot (Washington, Mich./Stoney Creek).
In the diving events three members of the Big Red squad will be trying to qualify for nationals. Sophomore Gabe Dixson (New Albany, Ohio/New Albany), who is the school's 11-dive record holder in both the 1-meter and 3-meter dive will compete at the conference championship for the first time. Senior Cody Smith (Ardmore, Pa./Haverford) is back after a runner-up finish in last year's 3-meter dive. Phil Meyer (River Forest, Ill./Oak Park-River Forest), the 2009 3-meter champion, is also back looking to add another conference title to his resume.
Denison, who will also serve as the host for this year's championship from C.T. Branin Natatorium in Canton, Ohio, will begin their title defense on Thursday (Feb. 10) and will continue through Saturday (Feb. 12). Visit the Official NCAC Swimming & Diving Championship Homepage for up-to-the minute information throughout the weekend.