CAMBRIDGE, Massachusetts, February 23. IN commanding fashion, Wagner College won its first ever Northeast Conference Swimming and Diving Championship. It was a record breaking meet, as five NEC records went down. The Seahawks scored 844 team points, the first team to break the 800 barrier since 2003 and only the fourth team since the first championship in 1999.
Bryant University was the runner-up squad 643.5 points. The Bulldogs edged out Central Connecticut who followed in third place wih 628 points. In fourth place, the Red Flash turned in 574 points. Mount St. Mary’s finished fifth with 284.5 points, St. Francs Brooklyn sixth with 180 points and Sacred Heart finished seventh with 167 points.
The Seahawks won nine of the 2 events and medaled at least one athlete in 18 events. Setting several NEC records, Outstanding Swimmer and Rookie of the meet Anu Nihipali (Honolulu, HI/Hawaii Preparatory Academy) left her mark winning three individual gold medals in the 200 Individual Medley, 100 Backstroke and the 200 Backstroke. Not only did Nihipali set a new NEC mark of 53.42 in the 100 yard backstroke, the freshman earned a spot in the NCAA B-Qualifier. Nihipali also set the NEC standard in the 200 Backstorke at 1:59.38. Nihipali was the first leg in the Seahawks Gold Medal 400 Medley Relay, which also set a new NEC record of 3:44.69.
The NEC Diver of the Meet went to Central Connecticut’s Jessica Goldman (Newington, CT/Newington/Trinity College). Goldman defended her one meter and three meter diving titles, scoring 248.05 on the final day of competition in the 3 meter. Goldman is the third Blue Devil to win back-to-back Diver of the Meet honors.
In his third season as head coach, Colin Shannahan led the Seahawks to the program’s first conference title earning him, by unanimous decision Coach of the Year. Each year the award is voted on by the seven swimming and diving head coaches. Central diving coach Michael Trueworthy was voted NEC Diving Coach of the Year.
The last day of competition opened with the 1650 Freestyle. The grueling race was dominated by youth, all three medals going to freshman. Wagner rookie Grace Baird (Lexington, NC/West Davidson) was the only athlete to swim a sub-17 minute mile. The win marked Baird’s second individual event championship title, the first of which was the 500-yard freestyle event. Baird finished in 16:53.17, just under 20 seconds ahead of second place finisher Mary Margaret Folz (Valencia, PA/Eden Christian) of Saint Francis U who came in at 17:12.77. Bryant’s Erin Daly (Reading, MA/Reading Memorial) clinched third with a time of 17:17.29
Nihipali dominated the 200 Backstroke, touching the wall a full three seconds ahead of Saint Francis U’s Sara Dieterich (Ronkonkoma, NY/Connetquot). Nihipali’s time of 1:59.38 set a new NEC record. Dieterich surged in 2:02.60 while Bryant’s Elisabeth Schauer (Pelham, NY/Pelham Memorial) medaled at 2:02.73.
Taking the top three spots of the 100 Freestyle were Blue Devil freshman Christine Rasile (Branford, CT/Branford), Seahawk senior Sarah Menendez (Land O’Lakes, FL/Wharton) and classmate Meredith Ketchmark (Plainsboro, NJ/West Windsor-Plainsboro). The 100 Free podium was seperated by six one-hundredths of a second. Rasile came from behind to take first with a time of 50.86, followed by Menendez at 51.14 and Ketchmark finished at 51.40. It was the closest finish of the meet.
In the 200 Back, Red Flash veteran Elise Lofgren (Molnlycke, Sweden/Hulebacks) earned her second gold of 2014. Lofgren won the 200 handily in 1:02.69. Central Connecticut’s Kristian Gulia (Orange, CT/Amity) and Catherine Rogers (Nokesville, VA/Seton School) came in at 1:04.36 and 104.46 respectively.
Mount St. Mary’s junior Erin Regan (Ft. Washington, PA/Upper Dublin) claimed the 200 Butterfly in 2:01.45, squeaking past Wagner’s Amanda Lucia (Easthampton, MA/Easthampton). Lucia finished in 2:01.76 while Libby Francis (Dundee, Scotland/Grove Academy) from Saint Francis U came in at 2:04.80 for third.
Goldman took gold in the three meter, but freshman Taylah Harrison (Bisbane, Australia/Moreton Bay College) gave the Blue Devil a close call, scoring 245.40 for second place. Wagner’s Erica Curry (Fountain Valley, CA/Fountain Valley) clinched third with 2:19.35.
The 400 Freestyle relay closed out the 2014 #NECSWIMDIVE championships. The Seahawk quartet of Menendez, Sam Sides (Cherry Hill, NJ/Cherry Hill East), Ketchmark and Nihipali capped off a near perfect meet with a first place time of 3:26.59. Kellen Power (San Jose, CA/Valley Christian), Erin Massey (Stratford, CT/Stratford, Amity Regional), Kathryn Kiely (Shelton, CT/Shelton) and Rasile claimed silver for Central Connecticut with a time of 3:27.88. Third place went to Bryant’s Taylor DeBever (Denver, CO/Regis Jesuit), Daly, Mara Valenzuela (Bridgewater, NJ/Bridgewater-Raritan) and Kaitlin Buckley (Duxbury, MA/Duxbury) with a time of 3:28.84.
Team Results After Day Three
1. Wagner College – 844
2. Bryant – 643.5
3. Central Connecticut – 628
4. Saint Francis U – 574
5. Mount St. Mary’s – 284.5
6. Sacred Heart – 180
7. Saint Francis Brooklyn – 167
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