GRANVILLE, Ohio -- The drama was as thick as the air inside Denison's Trumbull Aquatics Center on Saturday night.
Denison entered the second-to-last event, the 3-meter dive, clinging to a 7.5 point lead in the team standings. Strong showings by the Big Red's divers and a victory in the 400 freestyle relay secured Denison's 12th North Coast Athletic Conference Championship.
The Big Red did not have an entry in the 100 IM allowing Kenyon to post a 93-point swing in the standings. Denison bounced back with a 170-point haul thanks to seven scoring swimmers in the 100 free. Kymani Senior led the group with a time of 44.65. Matt McHugh was third in 44.86, a season-best 'B' cut for the junior. Michael Arpasi was sixth in 45.43 followed by Liam Picozzi in seventh (45.53) and Carson Clear in eighth (45.70). In the B Final, Colin MacMillan was 13th in 46.43 and Piotr Kurleto was 16th in 46.71.
In the 200 breast, Ryan Stevenson defended his crown and broke his own conference record in the process with a season-best 'B' cut time of 1:59.43. The Lords rallied in the event by landing swimmers in second, third, fifth, sixth and seventh. In the process, they mounted a 142-point swing in the standings.
After the 200 breast, DU had a 10.5 point lead which shrunk to 7.5 points after the 200 fly. Noah Houskeeper led Denison with a runner-up finish in 1:49.49 in the 200 fly. Francis Biagioli was fourth in 1:51.11 while Ethan Bevill touched in fifth place in 1:51.58.
Heading to the men's 3-meter dive competition, Kenyon had one entry and Denison had two. Liam Simmons, who won the 1-meter championship on Thursday, placed third with an 11-dive score of 397.11. Brendan Downey finished fourth with a score of 388.40. Kenyon's Ryder Sammons placed second in 432.25 but his 31-point effort in the scoring column wasn't enough to offset Denison's 59-point total from Downey and Simmons.
Simmons landed his biggest dive on his final attempt, a forward 1 ½ somersault two twist free (5134D) for a 48.75. Downey posted a 58.05 on his second-to-last dive, an inward 2 ½ somersault tuck (405C).
The diving sent the Big Red into the 400 free relay with a 35.5 point lead and Denison removed all doubt with a thrilling win in the finale. McHugh, Picozzi, Arpasi, and Senior combined for a time of 2:59.05, out-touching Kenyon at the wall. The Lords finished in 2:59.54 giving DU an 8-point advantage in the event and a 43.5-point victory in the team standings.
Every point was precious as Denison picked up its 11th straight NCAC championship and 12th overall in program history. The Big Red won eight event championships and broke two conference titles. Next week Denison travels to Kenyon for its annual Last Chance Meet before the NCAA Division III Championships on March 20-23 in Greensboro, N.C. where Denison will be trying to win its fifth national title since 2011.