ST PETERS, MO., March 11. "NINETEEN of 20 and one more in '04" could well be the slogan of the Kenyon women's swimming and diving team this weekend as the Ladies go for their third-consecutive NCAA Division III Championship of the new millennium.
Coach Jim Steen's double-defending champs will have to do it in an
"unproven" venue, however, as for the first time in the championship's 23-year history it will be swum here at Principia College's Rec-Plex Pool.
The title meet has usually been held at Emory University in Atlanta, where Kenyon is eight-for-eight.
The only team to defeat the Ladies since they first won back in President Reagan's first term's final year ('84) was three years ago, when Coach Greg Parini's Denison Big Red ladies took home No. 1. Interestingly, Parini is a former Kenyon All-America himself under Steen and was a member of several Lords' title teams.
Looking at the psych sheet, Kenyon has 14 women qualified for the championship, four under the maximum. However, a pair of those — senior Beth Galloway and junior Agnese Ozolina — are multi-NCAA champs and Galloway is a double Div. III record-holder (50 free, 22.95; 100 back, 55.69).
Emory has the maximum 18 qualifiers and Williams College — a perennial high finisher — is sending 15. Even with those unfavorable numbers, however, it would be foolish to count out Kenyon — particularly in view of the fact that all five of their relays are seeded No. 1 and a win is worth a big 404 points. And as Steen says, If nothing else, the pre-championship deterrents should act as a motivating factor for the Ladies.
Galloway is a 12-time national champion (including relays) and double-defending champion in the 100 backstroke. She also won the 50 freestyle and was a part of four winning relay teams at the 2003 meet. Ozolina, a Latvian import who hopes to represent her country this summer at the Athens Olympics, owns nine career NCAA titles, including four relay wins and an individual victory in the 200 individual medley from last season. She's also an excellent freestyler and is seeded second in the 200 plus fifth in the 100 (Galloway is third). Odzolinais also second-seed in the 200 IM.
With that Dynamic Duo leading the way, the Ladies swept all five national relay events last season and built up a winning team total of 560.5 points. Williams finished second with 350 points and Emory was third with 298 points.
Kenyon juniors Meilyn Chan, who along with Auburn's Eileen Coparropa, will swim for Panama in Athens; Emmie Dengler and sophomore Jane Alexander all know what it takes to get the job done in relay competition. The three share six national relay titles and will look to join Galloway and Ozolina in the Ladies' quest for another sweep.
Chan is also one of the nation's top 100 butterfly specialists and currently holds the season's third-fastest time (57.15).
In distance events, senior Hillary Strong and sophomore Rachel Smith will take over for the Ladies. Strong was conference-champion in the 1650 freestyle and her time of 17:08.03 ranks her tops nationally. She was fourth last year and is hopeful of going out on top — doubly — this weekend, both as an individual champ and with a team title as well. Smith was runner-up in the 500 in '03 and swam on the victorious 800 free relay.