COLLEGEVILLE, Pa. – The Ursinus College women's swimming team completed its fourth consecutive undefeated season earlier this month. Now the real fun begins, as the Bears chase a fourth straight Centennial Conference crown when the championship meet gets underway Friday morning at Franklin & Marshall.
Ursinus dominated the field at last year's championship, finishing almost 200 points clear of second-place Gettysburg and racking up 13 gold medals. Additionally, Peyten Lyons garnered both Most Outstanding Performer and Most Outstanding Rookie honors. With a stacked cast of returning medal winners, the Bears are heavy favorites to make it a four-peat, but must perform under the pressure of the championship meet to make it happen. Here's what to watch for as Ursinus chases more history:
Friday, February 17
Freshman Haley Sturla is the Bears' top seed in the 500 free, the first prelim event of the morning. Sophomore Kathryn Longenecker, who placed eighth at last year's championship, is one spot behind Sturla in seventh, and freshman Margrethe Leis is ninth. Senior Allison Emick checks in at 14th.
Lyons headlines the field in the 200 IM after setting a conference record with a 2:06.54 a year ago. Sophomore Katherine Madden is seeded fifth, while sophomore Caroline Powell is 14th and junior Olivia Tierney, who made the B final last season, is slotted at 17th. Lyons' top competition figures to be Washington College's Jenni Clune and Swartmore's Selina Ye.
The Bears could bank big points in the 50 free, where they have three of the top five swimmers in sophomore Clara Baker, who finished fourth last year and is seeded second; junior Sydney Gundersen, last year's bronze medalist and the third seed; and freshman Grace Emig, who is fifth. Senior Alexandra Hemp (10th) is in the mix as well. This event figures to be decided by the slightest of margins, with McDaniel's Syd Knadler edging Baker's seed time by a hundredth of a second; the top three seeds are separated by just .08 seconds.
Friday's finals will also include the 200 free relay and the 400 medley relay. Gundersen, Baker, and Lyons were part of the conference record-setting 1:36.01 in the 200 free relay last year, while Lyons, Tierney, and Baker helped set a new CC benchmark in the 400 medley relay.
Saturday, February 18
The Bears boast two of the top three seeds in the 400 IM with Madden (second) and Tierney (third) leading the way behind two-time defending champion Melissa Mullin (F&M). Sophomore Caroline Powell advanced to the B final of this event last season.
Baker holds conference (55.38) and championship (55.54) records in the 100 fly, where Ursinus swept the podium a year ago and looks well positioned to do so again with the return of juniors Katherine Porter and Meggie Leitz, who were second and third at last season's meet.
Gundersen placed fourth in the 200 free last season but is the favorite this time around with a seed time of 1:55.11, solidly ahead of Washington College's Julia Portmann (1:56.87) and Swarthmore's Clare Cushing (1:57.18). Leis (seventh) and Longenecker (ninth) will battle for a spot in the A final.
Tierney is seeded seventh in the 100 breast after a sixth-place showing a year ago, and Sturla is right behind in eighth. Sophomore Gabriella Timuscuk rounds out the top 10.
Lyons is the top seed in the 100 back after establishing a new CC record of 56.50 at last year's meet. She will contend for gold with F&M's Anna Hess and Dickinson's Katie Schmidt. Leitz is seeded eighth and Madden 11th.
Saturday's finals will showcase the 200 medley relay, perhaps the most exciting race at last season's championship. Lyons, Tierney, and Baker joined Micaela Lyons to set a conference and championship record of 1:46.10 and finish a hundredth of a second ahead of Gettysburg's top group. The Bears are also heavy favorites in the 800 free relay; Leitz, Gundersen, and Lyons set a conference and championship record in this event last season.
Sunday, February 19
Sturla, seeded fifth, is the Bears' top competitor in the 1650 free, where Dickinson's Olivia Lyman is a strong favorite. Leis (11th), Emick (13th), and Longenecker (15th) are also projected in the top 16.
Lyons is a medal contender in the 200 back, where she is slotted third behind Hess and Schmidt. Lyons claimed gold, about a second ahead of Schmidt, at last season's championship; Leitz, seeded 10th, took bronze. Madden is seeded seventh after finishing in the same spot a year ago.
Gundersen tied for fifth in the 100 free last year but is seeded second this time, her mark of 53.25 behind only Clune's 53.03. Baker is fifth at 53.80, rounding out a top five separated by just .77 seconds.
Sturla and Tierney are sixth and seventh, respectively in the 200 breast, where Tierney holds conference and championship records from two years ago and has corralled the last two conference golds; Timuscuk (ninth) will look to break into the A final in this event.
Ursinus swept the podium in the 200 fly last season and is favored to do so once more, as Baker, Porter, and Leitz reside in the top three seed lines. Leitz won gold last year with Porter in silver. Timuscuk, meanwhile, is seeded fifth.
The championship will conclude with the 400 free relay, where Ursinus is seeded second behind only Washington College. Two years ago, Gundersen was part of the conference record mark of 3:30.77 in this race.
Friday's prelims are scheduled for 11 a.m., with the finals at 7 p.m. On Saturday and Sunday, the prelims will get underway at 10 a.m. and the finals at 6 p.m.
Men's and Women's swimming heads to Centennial Conference championships this weekend! February 17-19, 2017 | hosted by: Franklin and Marshall College video by: Brett Felgoise '17 | https://goo.gl/R3tgTj