GRANVILLE, Ohio-- For the sixth-straight year, Denison University and the Trumbull Aquatics Center will serve as the host venue for the North Coast Athletic Conference Swimming & Diving Championships on February 13-16. DenisonBigRed.com will provide extensive coverage throughout the meet with nightly recaps, video highlights, and photo galleries. Follow @DenisonSports on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram for exclusive content. A live video stream of preliminaries and finals will also be broadcast by the Denison Sports Network.
Denison enters the championships with both squads ranked in the top three in the TYR/CSCAA Division III Top-25. The Big Red men's team is ranked No. 1 and the women check in at No. 3 after holding down the nation's top spot for much of the season. Both squads enter the championship with numerous student-athletes either seeking national cuts or looking to improve upon their 'B' cut times. Veteran head coach Gregg Parini is excited to see if his pair of talent-laden teams is up for the challenge.
"We have established some goals for this championship and primarily we want our athletes to perform at their very best and be highly competitive," said Parini. "Beyond that, our goal is to strengthen our hand at nationals by making as many NCAA cuts as possible. I'm excited to see how our roster responds to the opportunity that lies before them."
The Denison women are led by junior KT Kustritz who is coming off three conference championships in 2018. Last season, she took home titles in the 100 breaststroke, the 100 IM and the 400 medley relay. Kustritz owns the nation's fastest times in the 100 breast (59.84) and the 200 breast (2:13.72). Junior Kate Mesaros won the 200 breaststroke in 2018 and was the runner-up to Kustritz in the 100 breast a season ago.
Mia Chiappe, Maddie Hopkins, and Casey Kirby will get plenty of opportunities through relays and individual events. Chaippe is looking to strengthen her 'B' cut times in the 100 and 200 freestyles. Hopkins has the nation's fourth-fastest time this season in the 100 fly (55.46) and boasts DU's fastest time in the 50 free (23.45). Kirby has six conference titles on her resume. The 2017 100 backstroke champion will be looking to strengthen her 'B' cut time of 56.96. Kirby placed second in the 100 backstroke at last year's NCAC championship.
In the 400 IM, Natalie Zaravella is the defending champion. She also owns the nation's second-fastest time this season at 4:21.74.
In women's diving, 2018 NCAC Diver of the Year Allison Fitzgerald returns after sweeping both boards in 2018. Junior Naomi Clayton returns after placing second in the 3-meter dive in 2018. Senior Emma Weber was the runner-up on the 1-meter board a season ago.
Denison's women have captured NCAC Championships in eight of the last 10 years dating back to 2009 with the only runner-up finishes coming in 2016 and 2018. Overall, the Big Red women have won nine NCAC titles.
Denison's men are searching for its 11th consecutive conference championship. Senior Ryan Stevenson is the defending NCAC champion in the 200 IM and the 200 breaststroke. He also swam on winning 400 medley and 800 free relay teams last year. Kymani Senior, also a two-time winner in 2018 returns. He looks to improve upon his 20.56 'B' cut time in the 50 free and his 49.00 time in the 100 fly.
Carson Clear is the defending champion in the 100 backstroke and he enters with the nation's 14th best time in the event at 49.53. Fellow senior, Kenny Fox, is a three-time NCAC champion who is looking for another 100 butterfly championship in addition to improving his time in the 100 breaststroke.
Junior Matt McHugh swam on three first-place relay teams at the 2018 NCAC championship. He also logged a third-place finish in the 100 free and a runner-up finish in the 200 free. He has the conference's fourth-fastest time in the 100 free this season at 45.00 and the third-quickest time in the 50 free at 20.50.
Junior James Baker leads a talented bunch of Denison distance swimmers. He placed second in the 500 and the 1,650 freestyle's last season.
The Denison men have won 10-straight NCAC Championships and 11 conference titles, overall. Since Parini's arrival in 1988, the men have finished no worse than second place in the team standings.
The 2019 NCAC Championship begins on Wednesday, Feb. 13 at 6:30 p.m. with two swimming events and the women's 3-meter diving preliminaries and finals. Morning preliminaries and nightly finals will take place on Thursday, Feb. 14 through the championship's completion on Saturday, Feb. 16. Prelims are scheduled to begin at 9:30 a.m. with finals slated for 6 p.m. on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.