The Big Red women's swimmers and divers came out with guns blazing on Thursday night as the 2011 North Coast Athletic Conference Championship got underway from C.T. Branin Natatorium in Canton, Ohio. Denison placed first in each of the six events contested in the opening night and lead second-place Kenyon by 179 points heading in to day two of three.
Through six of 19 events, Denison has tallied 609 points. Kenyon follows with 430 points and Allegheny sits in third with 282 points. Positions four through eight are held down by Wittenberg (230), Oberlin (213), Wooster (204), Ohio Wesleyan (118) and Hiram (103).
Denison's 200 free relay team of Morgan Nuess (Kettering, Ohio/Dayton Christian), Ksenia Golovkina (Newton, Mass./Newton South), Lianne McCluskey (Hope, Maine/Camden Hills Regional), and Alyssa Swanson (Aurora, Colo./Regis Jesuit) set the tone for the night by breaking the meet record with a time of 1:32.50. All four swimmers posted NCAA automatic qualifying splits in the race and Swanson, who swam the anchor leg, notched a split of 22.79. The foursome's 200 free relay time was the second-fastest in DU history.
While the 200 free relay served as the pace setter, Denison's performance in the morning preliminaries of the 50 free set the table for the night's big splash as the Big Red took six of the top-7 spots in the sprint. After her 23.48 time in prelims, Nuess came back with a time of 23.54 seconds to win the event. Following in second-place was Golovkina who touched in 23.92. Placing fourth through seventh were Maddie Armitage (Columbus, Ohio/Upper Arlington), McCluskey, Marit Wangstad (Wayzata, Minn./The Blake School) and Victoria Masney (West Vancouver, British Columbia/Mulgrave), respectively. In 50 free alone, DU would rack up 158 team points.
A second NCAC record would fall in the 200 individual medley as junior Emily Schroeder (Fishers, Ind./Hamilton Southeastern) defended her title with a personal best time of 2:04.59. That swim broke the conference record that was set by Hiram's Beth Groselle in 2006. Following Schroeder was junior Brenna Broadus (Charlottesville, Va./Western Albemarle) who took silver with a 'B' cut time of 2:06.38, besting her performance from a year ago by two positions. Checking in at fourth and fifth place, respectively, were Lindsay Zeberlein (Highlands Ranch, Colo./Mountain Vista) and first-year Natalie Lugg (Woodbury, Minn./Woodbury).
Another area which typically favors the Big Red at the conference championship is the diving events and second-year head coach Jason Glorius' trio of Dallas Manson (Torrington, Conn./Torrington), Rachel Keselring (West Bloomfield, Mich./West Bloomfield) and Lizzie Litwak (Loudonville, N.Y./Albany Academy for Girls) locked down the top three positions in the event to pick up 87 points toward the Denison cause. Manson edged her classmate, Keselring, for the top-spot with an 11-dive score of 363.75. Keselring followed with a score of 362.85 and Litwak followed in third with 342.35 points. This marked the fifth time out of the last seven years a DU diver has won the women's one-meter dive.
Junior distance freestyler Hilary Callen (Oswego, N.Y./Oswego) kept her streak in tact by capturing her third-straight 500 freestyle championship by posting a season-best and 'A' cut time of 4:55.02. Swanson trailed in third place with an 'A' cut time of 4:55.82 which was just slightly off her season-best time set at the Miami Invitational in December. First-year Tully Bradford (Lakeside Park, Ky./Notre Dame Academy) rounded out the A-Final of the 500 free with an eighth-place finish and a 'B' cut of 5:05.05.
The night was closed out by the Big Red's fifth-straight win in the 400 medley relay. Zeberlein, Golovkina, Broadus and Swanson combined for an 'A' cut time of 3:46.45. Zeberlein got things started with a season-best time of 57.00 in her backstroke split. Swanson slammed the door with a 50.74 split in the freestyle.
Denison will return to the pool on Friday with preliminaries beginning at 10 a.m.