The NCAA Division III Men’s and Women’s Swimming and Diving National Championships began Wednesday in Shenandoah, Texas, and will conclude Saturday. Eighteen women and 31 men are representing Emory at the meet. Both the men’s and women’s squads are coming off of University Athletic Association (UAA) championships.
As of press time, the swimmers had completed the first day of competition. The women’s squad ended the day in first place. Scoring 151.5 points, they led second place Kenyon College (Ohio) by 47.5 points.
The men’s team stood in fifth place with 67 points, trailing leader Kenyon College by 43 points.
The women’s team is ranked first in the NCAA, and they are hoping to win an otherworldly fourth consecutive NCAA Championship. The team is led by Senior Captain Anna Dobben who was named the UAA Swimmer of the Year.
Dobben and the Eagles know that they are coming in as the favorites and appreciate the pressure that they are under as the three-time defending champions. Still, their goal is simply to swim faster than their opponents.
“This is our party and there are targets on our backs, but we approach this with the score always being 0-0,” Dobben said. “We have to go out there every single day and prove that we are the best and swim like we are the best.”
Dobben is coming off both a terrific regular season and an exceptional performance in the National Championships last year.
At this year’s conference championships, she finished first in the 50-yard freestyle, 100-yard backstroke, 200-yard freestyle relay, 800-yard freestyle relay and 400-yard freestyle relay.
In 2012, she was part of the Eagles’ national championship-winning relay teams in the 200-yard and 400-yard freestyle.
She also earned All-American honors in the 50-yard freestyle, the 100-yard freestyle, the 100-yard back and the 800-yard freestyle relay.
“I know my technique is there, and everything is ready to go,” Dobben said. “I just need to focus on swimming fast.”
Dobben is not the only defending national champion competing in this meet for the Eagles. Senior Leslie Hackler and sophomore Sadie Nennig were part of the championship-winning 200-yard individual medley (IM) relay team, and sophomore Nancy Larson and senior Renee Rosenkranz joined Dobben on the winning 400-yard freestyle relay team.
Seniors Ann Wobler and Rosenkranz swam together on the championship-winning 200-yard freestyle relay team.
Nennig also won the 200-yard backstroke. Additionally, senior Taryn Lushinsky, junior Courtney McDermott, senior Mia Michalak, sophomore McKenna Newsum-Schoenberg and junior Brooke Woodward won All-American honors.
Not only have many individuals on the team racked up an impressive list of championships and honors, but the whole squad supports each other like a family.
“There may be one person swimming in the water, but 17 girls are standing behind them supporting them,” Dobben said. “You can see and hear them when you are in the water. There is a lot of camaraderie.”
On the men’s side, the squad hopes to live up to its impressive legacy and earn its first national championship. The Eagles have finished third at the meet in the last three years and finished second four other times. The team has finished in the top six in every one of the last 14 national championships.
The Eagles will be led by senior Miller Douglas who won the UAA title in the 200-yard butterfly. In the 2012 National Championships, Douglas earned All-American honors in the 200-yard butterfly, 400-yard IM, 800 free Relay and 200 IM relay.
The Eagles hope for a strong performance from freshman phenomenon Andrew Wilson who won conference titles in the 100-yard breaststroke, 200-yard breaststroke, 400-yard IM relay and 200-yard IM relay.
Junior Ryan Bass, senior Stephen Czaja, senior Peter O’Brien, senior Jeff Simpson, junior Ross Spock, junior Jake Stephens and senior Richard Upton; in addition to Douglas, all earned All-American honors last year.
“As a team, we need to execute each swim with a lot of finesse and a lot of focus in every race, no matter what race was before it or what race is to come,” Dobben said. “My expectations are a lot of best times and to have a lot of fun with my best friends. Everyone is looking forward to spending quality time winning some races and just being together.”
– By Bennett Ostdiek
Photo by Christine Hines