2019 NCAA Division III Preview: Seven Freshmen to Watch In Their Nationals Debut

maggie-menso-st-kates

Of the 526 (290 women, 236 men) swimmers qualified for the 2019 NCAA Division III swimming and diving championships, 123 are freshman (69 women, 54 men).

Some freshmen are seeded to make a larger impact than others. In the women’s 200 backstroke freshmen hold seeds two through five, yet there are other events without a single freshman in the top 16.

Here’s seven freshmen who, based on their results thus far, will begin what could be a highly celebrated NCAA championship career.

Men’s Psych Sheet

Women’s Psych Sheet

1. Jordyn Wentzel, St. Kate’s

200 IM- 4th (2:01.75), 100 Breast- 3rd (1:01.75), 200 Breast- 1st (2:12.85)

A freshman with three top four times is always noteworthy. It stands out more when the times are posted by an athlete from a team that has not even sent a swimmer to NCAAs in recent years.

Entering college Jordyn Wentzel held a lifetime best 200 breaststroke of 2:15.00, a mark that would have been more than set for an NCAA invite. After huge drops in her first season, she enters the meet as the top seed (2:12.85), ready to seriously challenge Denison’ KT Kustritz. The NCAA record is a 2:12.20 set by Sam Semczyszyn in 2016. Kustritz lowered the meet record to 2:12.27 last year.

Wentzel has found a new gear in the 100 breast as well, already twice lowering her pre-college best of 1:02.47. Wentzel arrived in Minnesota with a lifetime best 200 IM of 2:05.61, a mark that would have made NCAAs, but not by much. Something in St. Paul is working, because she now holds the fourth fastest time in Division III this year.

2. Maggie Menso, St. Kate’s

500 Free- 2nd (4:51.31), 200 Free- 10th (1:50.64), 1650-1st (16:47.83)

St. Kate’s brought in quite the first year class. The Wildcats have the two freshman seeded to score the most points in the entire NCAA. If these women hold their own seeds in their six individual events they’d score enough points to have finished 12th at last year’s Championship.

Maggie Menso enters the 2019 Championship as the top seed in the 1650 by three seconds. She’s entered three seconds ahead of defending champion Laura Westphal of Williams (16:50.89). Westphal won the event last year in 16:35.20. Menso’s best? 16:39.12. If she can drop time anywhere close to as dramatically as her teammate Wentzel, Menso could run away with this race.

In the 500 Menso has shaved two tenths off her pre-college best to earn the second seed. While her lowest entry of the meet, that 200 free time is a huge improvement, two and a half seconds faster than her pre-college best of 1:53.05, swum when she was 15.

3. Graham Chatoor, NYU

500 Free- 9th (4:27.89), 200 Free- 36th (1:41.98), 1650 Free- 2nd (15:24.13)

Hailing from Trinidad and Tobago, this appears to be Graham Chatoor‘s first season racing short course yards. His best long course 1500 is a 16:29.91, according to CollegeSwimming, which would convert to 16:05.16 in yards, a mark Chatoor has obliterated.

Chatoor had a huge first UAA Conference meet, earning Rookie of the Year honors after narrowly edging defending NCAA Champion Tom Gordon of Emory in the 500 and 1650. In Greensboro Chatoor will have a chance to go head to head with Gordon again, and to take on current mile leader, Denison senior Matt Hedman.

The second through 11th seeds in the 500 free all fall within one second of each other, so Chatoor is very much so in the mix in the 500 as well. He’ll need a significant time drop to score in the 200 free, but his potential impact in Division III’s two longest events could be significant.

4. Sydney Okubo, Johns Hopkins

200 IM- 9th (2:03.30), 400 IM- 12th (4:26.04), 200 Back- 2nd (1:59.92)

Sydney Okubo got off to a hot start in the fall, sitting near the top of the national rankings in a number of events. She’d already gone a 2:01.73 in the 200 back by November 3rd. While she’s cooled off relative to the national field a bit in some of her events, her lifetime best 200 back sit at 1:59.52, a touch faster than her NCAA entry time.

In the 400 IM Okubo has four times been faster than her NCAA seed. Her lifetime best is a 4:22.93, a time that would launch her up to sixth on the psych sheet. Okubo’s 200 IM seed is her lifetime best mark, swum at the Bruno Invite at the end of November. Wether she goes lifetime bests or not, Okubo could score in all three of her individual swims.

5. Max Chen, Johns Hopkins

200 IM- 12th (1:50.39), 100 Breast- 4th (54.50), 200 Breast- 19th (2:01.84)

In his six month long college career Max Chen has already lowered his lifetime best in the 100 breaststroke four times, taking a total of six tenths off his previous best of 55.11. He’s also taken eight tenths off his best 200 breaststroke and a few hundredths from his best 200 IM.

Chen had the fastest 100 breaststroke in Division III from mid-season invites until February 15th. The Blue Jays did not have a Conference Championship to rest for, meaning Chen could still have more in the tank.

6. Clio Hancock, Emory

200 IM- 10th (2:03.68), 400 IM- 1st (4:17.06), 200 Fly- 13th (2:03.51)

While her high point is clearly in the 400 IM, Clio Hancock excels enough at the demanding event that she certainly has talent that should set her up for some improvement in some other events over her college career. This year Clio has already knocked three seconds off her best ever 400 IM to earn the top seed.

At Emory she has improved her 200 IM by just over a second and knocked two seconds off her 200 fly best. Those times leave Hancock with solid chances to score in three events in her first National Championships.

7. Zachary Lorson, Emory

200 IM- 14th (1:50.69), 400 IM- 1st (3:51.86), 1650 Free- 6th (15:33.55)

Zachary Lorson‘s profile is very similar to his teammate Hancock. He has rocked his pre-college best in the 400 IM, knocking five seconds off the mark, and taking the top spot in Division III in what stands out as his best event. He has also seen a two second improvement in his 200 IM.

Lorson’s mile looks like it could be the event with the most potential for his college career. The USA Swimming database shows just one short course mile in Lorson’s pre-college swimming career, a 16:41.53 swum in his freshman year in high school.

In early November Lorson touched in 16:34, and then took a full minute off that time, finishing in 15:33.55 less than a month later at the Denison Invitational. Beginning next week, and in the next three years, we’ll see how much potential Lorson has as a distance swimmer.

10 comments

  1. avatar
    Nancy

    Good luck Max!

    • Karen McConnell

      It is St Catherine’s University In St. Paul

  2. Mike Nelson

    So awesome Jordyn!

  3. Charlene Tallen

    So proud of you Jordyn Wentzel! Have a terrific meet. Go ‘Cats!

  4. Suzie Thompson

    Nice Max Chen👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻

  5. Peter Buecher

    This is AWESOME Jordyn!

  6. avatar
    ED MENSO

    YEA MAGGIE!