By Emily Sampl
Courtesy of: Kyle Staggs
Courtesy of: Kyle Staggs
BOULDER, Colorado, March. 11. WHEN the NCAA Division II Swimming and Diving National Championships kick off tomorrow at the SPIRE Institute in Geneva, Ohio, the Drury University Panthers will be looking to add to what has quickly become a dynasty in Division II swimming. The Panther men have won the last nine consecutive Division II national titles, while the women have won four of the last five (they finished second to Wayne State in 2012). If the men and women's team walk away from the meet victorious, it would mark the seventh time the two teams have swept the Division II national championships.
Drury will bring 13 swimmers to the meet, the most of any school on the women's side, and on paper they appear to be the team to beat. Drury enters the meet with the top-ranked time in three of the five relays -- the 200 medley, 400 medley and 800 free -- and has at least one swimmer seeded in the top 16 in every single event. The 200 and 500 freestyles will be key races for the Panthers, as they have three swimmers seeded in the top 16 in both.
Queens University of Charlotte could pose the biggest threat to a Drury repeat, as they have at least one swimmer seeded to make finals in every event but the 100 and 200 breast, and all five of their relays are seeded fifth or higher. The Royals have several swimmers with individual title aspirations as well, including Caroline Arakelian (400 IM, 200 back), Hannah Peiffer (100 fly, 100 back and 200 fly) and Meridith Boudreaux (1650 free), who are all seeded first or second in one or more individual events.
Wingate could also challenge for the title, but they'll need to make up for several holes in their distance lineup, with no one seeded to score in the 500, 1000 or 1650 free, or the 400 IM. The Bulldogs have a couple of swimmers in the hunt for individual event titles. Freshman Sofia Petrenko is seeded third in the 200 free (1:49.55) and seventh in the 200 IM 2:02.77), while Katie Pheil is seventh in the 200 free (1:50.28) and fifth in the 200 back (1:58.67).
Other schools who could play the spoiler include West Chester, UC San Diego and Wayne State. West Chester has a couple of huge events, with six swimmers entered in the 1000 free and three of the top 18 in the 500, but some of their relays will need to move up significantly in order to challenge for the team title. UC San Diego has 12 swimmers at the meet and will look to senior captain Anjali Shakya and freshman Sierra Gage for big points. Shakya is the defending national champion in the 200, where she's seeded sixth; her best shot may come in the 500 though, where she's the top seed by three seconds. Wayne State also has very few holes in its lineup; the 100 fly and 500 free are the only events where they don't have someone seeded to score. Ana Azambuja (50 free), Kayla Scott (100 breast) and Kristina Novichenko (200 fly) all come in as the top seeds in one event.
Meanwhile, the Drury men are in the hunt for their 10th straight title, and they'll bring the largest men's squad to the meet at 15, not including divers. Drury's only noticeable holes are the lack of swimmers seeded in scoring position in the 400 IM, and the fact that most of their relays are seeded third or fourth. It is unusual to see a team with enough depth to win a team title but not a single relay; it will be interesting to see if the Panthers can claw their way to a victory in one of the relays.
Outside of Drury, there are several other schools that appear to be worthy challengers, based on the psych sheets. Wayne State looks to be in excellent shape, with individuals seeded in the top 16 in every event but the 1000 free, 400 IM, 500 free and 1650 free. They'll have to make up for their lack of depth in the distance events with points in other events, which they definitely look to be capable of.
Grand Valley could also be a major contender. Gianni Ferrero has a chance to win all three of his events as the top seed in the 200 free, second seed in the 100 back and third seed in the 200 IM. Teammate Kyle Gunderson could also be a major contributor; he's seeded fifth in the 200 free and ninth in the 200 fly.
Queens University of Charlotte will definitely be a factor; they could get three wins alone from freshman sensation Matt Josa, who has his choice of swimming in the 200 IM, 100 fly, 100 back, 100 free or 200 back -- he's entered in all of them on the psych sheets but will have to scratch down to three. He has posted the fastest time in the 100 fly, 100 free and 200 back.
The meet begins tomorrow morning with preliminaries at 10am ET, followed by finals at 6pm. Be sure to follow Swimming World for the latest results and updates!