LANCASTER, Pa. – Winning Centennial Conference championships is becoming second nature to the Ursinus College women's swimming team. This year, the Bears outdid even themselves.
Ursinus capped a four-day stay at Franklin & Marshall with its fifth consecutive conference crown, running away with a historic performance that holds a place all its own in conference lore. The Bears finished with 929 points, breaking Gettysburg's team record of 908 from 2008, and their 326-point margin of victory over second-place Swarthmore also stands as the third-largest in the history of the CC meet.
Senior Sydney Gundersen was named the meet's Outstanding Performer, and freshman Sophie May garnered Outstanding Rookie Performer honors. Gundersen won a remarkable seven gold medals: the 100 and 200 free and the 200 IM in addition to the 200 free relay, the 400 free relay, the 800 free relay, and the 400 medley relay, with all four of those relays establishing new CC records. She is the third Ursinus swimmer to take home Outstanding Performer honors, joining Malena Lair Ferrari (2014) and junior teammate Peyten Lyons (2016).
May joined Lyons as the only rookie award winners in school history with an incredible effort in her first taste of championship action. In addition to joining the record-breaking 200 medley, 200 free, 400 free, and 800 free relays, she also won the 50 free and placed second in both the 200 free and 200 back.
Already owning enough points at the conclusion of Day 3 to claim another title, the Bears went about a systematic assault on the record books in becoming the second program to win five straight CC crowns. The result was an unrelenting night of dominance that included five gold medals and a 1-2-3-4 showing in the 200 fly.
Senior Meggie Leitz, the only swimmer in team history to win the event, won her third straight gold in a B cut mark of 2:05.48 to become the third three-time champion in CC history.
Baker followed just over a second later with the silver, and senior Katherine Porter won bronze in 2:09.45. Junior Gabriella Timusck was just out of medal range behind her trio of teammates at 2:10.46.
Lyons followed with her second career gold in the 200 back. The junior, who broke her own conference standard with a 2:02.68 in the prelims, came back Sunday night to post a 2:03.07 and another NCAA B cut. May claimed silver in a personal-best 2:04.29, while junior Katherine Madden (2:09.15) landed in seventh.
Gundersen added to her treasure trove by making it back-to-back golds in the 100 free, holding off Gettysburg's Kate Crilly to win by 0.19 seconds in a clocking of 52.24 which matched her own program record from two years ago.
Senior Olivia Tierney became just the second three-time champion in CC history in the 200 breast, touching in a B cut time of 2:22.68 to join F&M's Carmen Trombini (1995-97) with a conference triple. Sophomore Haley Sturla (2:27.16) finished in sixth.
May, Baker, Leitz, and Gundersen finished the weekend on another historic note, breaking a fourth conference record with a 3:30.57 in the 400 free relay. Gundersen was a member of the previous record-setting group from 2015.
Freshman Becca Warren led off the evening by setting a new program record in the 1650 free, where her 17:46.33 was good for fourth place. Junior Kathryn Longenecker, the previous record-holder, was sixth at 17:56.71.
The women's swimming team now waits to see which swimmers qualify for the NCAA Championships, which begin on March 21 in Indianapolis. The Bears hope to send a relay team to the national meet for the first time in program history, while several individuals are also in contention for inclusion.