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Denison women place second at NCAC Championship

Mia Chiappe, Maddie Hopkins, Casey Kirby, KT Kustritz  |  Photo by Jace Delgado
Mia Chiappe, Maddie Hopkins, Casey Kirby, KT Kustritz | Photo by Jace Delgado

GRANVILLE, Ohio -- Denison picked up three more event championships but it wasn't quite enough to hold off Kenyon as the Big Red placed second overall with 1,882 points.  Denison entered the final night with a nine-point lead, but Kenyon moved ahead of the Big Red after the second event and held off the Big Red over the final five events to leave with the win.

Kenyon totaled 1,937 points while DU trailed by just 55 points.  Third place went to DePauw with 1,194.5 points.  They held off fourth-place Wooster who ended with 1,153.

Denison's Maddie Hopkins and KT Kustritz took co-starring roles throughout this year's championship with each swimmer winning three individual event championships along with three relay titles.  On Saturday, Hopkins broke the NCAC record in the 100 freestyle with a time of 50.12.  The record of 50.43 was previously held by Denison's Olivia Zaleski since 2009.

The duo teamed up to close out the meet along with Mia Chiappe and Casey Kirby in the 400 free relay.  Kustritz closed with a 50.88 anchor split thanks to a surging final 25-yards that locked up the win for DU.  The team touched in 3:22.30, edging second-place Kenyon who finished in 3:22.79.

At this point in the career of Kustritz, it is becoming difficult to find new firsts, but the junior standout broke the NCAC record in the 200 breast with a winning time of 2:14.57.  Second-place went to Kate Mesaros who finished with a season-best 'B' cut time of 2:17.36. Mesaros was the NCAC champ in the 200 breast in 2017 and 2018.  Also earning an all-conference certificate was DU's Olivia Lantry who touched third with a 'B' cut time of 2:19.90, a 1.80-second drop over her previous season-best time.

The Big Red stacked the A Final of the 100 free as Chiappe took fifth in 51.36 followed by Michaela Morrison (7th – 52.08), Spencer Crawford (8th – 52.14), and Gabriella Nutter (9th – 52.22).

The Big Red placed second, third and fourth in the 200 fly led by Caroline Colville's time of 2:05.60.  That 'B' cut came on the heels of her season-best time of 2:05.39 in prelims.  Kaila Byerly placed third in 2:08.27 while Logan Wickman took fourth in 2:09.10.

In the 1,650 freestyle, it was Natalie Zaravella and Colville who picked up all-conference accolades with second and third place showings, respectively.  Zaravella touched in 17:05.88 while Colville finished in 17:13.71.  Grace Kacmarek took seventh with a time of 17:26.75.

First-year Marie Lehman was the runner-up in the 100 individual medley in 58.86.

Casey Kirby placed fifth in the 200 back in 2:04.90 and Bridget Horton touched eighth in 2:07.72.

Denison won 11 of 21 events at this year's championship.  In the post-meet awards ceremony, Kacmarek was named the NCAC Newcomer of the Year, Allison Fitzgerald was named the NCAC Diver of the Year for the third-straight year, and Kustritz was named the 2019 NCAC Swimmer of the Year for the first time.  With her six conference championships at this year's meet, she runs her career total of NCAC titles to 16, which ranks fourth to only Carolyn Kane (17), Alyssa Swanson (18) and Zaleski (19).

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.