NCAA Division III Men’s Predictions

By Reed Shimberg

MEDFORD, Massachusetts, March 7. THE men's side of the NCAA Division III Championships in Minneapolis, Minnesota seems just about locked up. However, the meet will be closer than anyone would think. Kenyon has won the championship for 30 straight years and do not look for that run to end any time soon,

Last year, St. Olaf and Grove City both finished in the top 10, but this year is going to be a little different. St. Olaf only had one swimmer qualify, their star Chris Bateman, who is seeded top two in all three of his individual events, while Grove City did not have any swimmers qualify this year.

The graduation of many swimmers from both of their teams leaves the door open for some new up-and-coming teams to make their mark on the national scene. However, it seems inevitable that teams without a relay presence will be unable to crack to the top-10.

Here are my predictions for the top-10 teams:
1. Kenyon Lords: The Lords are heavy favorites going into Minneapolis; some online commenters have even declared the meet over as soon as they land in the airport. The Lords will be led by Zack Turk, who won the 50 free last year and finished third in the 100; this year, he is seeded eighth and 12th respectively in those events. Freshman Ian Stewart-Bates is a top 10 seed in each of his three individual events, the 50, 100, and 200 free, and is looking to continue Kenyon's dominance. Distance swimmer Kegan Borland is the two-time defending champion in the mile and, while seeded second this year, he is expected to make some serious waves in the event. Also, he finished top eight last year in the 500 free and 400 IM, and this year should be no different.

2. Emory Eagles: The Eagles have the capability to have some strong individual swims this year, but only one of their relays is seeded in the top 12. In order to give Kenyon any serious competition, their relays are going to have to perform to the best of their ability. Individually, they will be led by Mark Bernstein, who finished top eight in the 200 freestyle, 500 freestyle, and 200 butterfly last year, John Petroff, who finished top eight in the 100 and 200 butterfly and top 16 in the 200 IM, and Kevin Yamada, who finished top eight in the 100 breaststroke and 200 IM and top 16 in the 200 breaststroke. Freshman Peter O'Brien should have a strong showing for the Eagles, as he is seeded top eight in the 200 breaststroke and top 16 in both the 200 and 400 IM.
3. Denison Big Red: If you are playing a numbers game for the rest of the top 10 teams, then Denison is a strong choice. Despite the fact that they lost seniors David Curtis and John Geissinger, they have a strong roster of upper classman to handle the loss, including Dan Thurston, Jake Lewing, and Robert Barry. Thurston finished top eight in the 500 freestyle and 400 IM last year and is seeded second and third respectively for this year's meet. Lewing finished top 16 in the 100 breaststroke and 200 IM last year but look for him to break through to the top eight in both breaststroke events and the 200 IM, in which he is currently seeded in the top 10. Barry finished second in the 100 backstroke and fourth in the 200 backstroke last year, and is expected to have a similar showing this year. Denison's relays should certainly factor into their success, since they are seeded in the top four of the 200 medley, 400 medley, and 800 freestyle relays.

4. Kalamazoo Hornets: Having placed just outside the top 10 the past three years, the Hornets look to regain their previous form with a strong performance this year. They will be led by Chris Manning, who is seeded in the top 16 for the 100 and 200 breaststroke as well as the 200 IM, Craig Fleming who is seeded top eight in the 50, 100, and 200 freestyles after finishing top 16 in all three events last year, Brian Bazzell, who finished top 16 in the 200 freestyle last year and is expected to finish high in the 50, 100, and 200 this year, and Paul Ellis who is seeded top eight in 100 butterfly and 100 and 200 backstroke. With extensive sprinting talent, the Hornets will show some success in their relays this year, since each of their five relays are seeded in the top four.

5. Amherst Lord Jeffs: Coming off a fifth-place finish last year, the Jeffs hope for a similar showing at this year's meet. They will be led by Alex Fraser and Ryan Lichtenfels; Fraser is the reigning champion and meet record holder in the 500 freestyle and is expected to repeat as champion. He also finished second in the 200 freestyle and ninth in the 100 freestyle last year. He is seeded top eight in each event this year. Lichtenfels was runner-up in the mile last year and finished in the top eight of the 500 freestyle as well as top 16 in the 400 IM. Watch for him to improve upon those finishes, as he is seeded in the top 8 for all three events this year. The Jeffs expect to be successful in their 800 freestyle relay, which is currently seeded second.

6. Massachusetts Institute of Technology Engineers: After finishing ninth last year, the Engineers are searching for improvement. The team will be led by Luke Cummings, Ratislav Racz, and Brendan Deveny. Cummings finished top 16 in both the 50 and 100 freestyle last year, and Racz finished top eight in the 100 breaststroke and top 16 in the 200 breaststroke; this year, both are seeded in the top 16 for all four of those events. Deveny, a freshman, is looking to score in the 200 and 400 IM as well as the 200 backstroke. The Engineers should be able to put together strong medley and freestyle relays as they are seeded in the top eight in three out of the five events.

7. The College of New Jersey Lions: After finishing 10th last year, the Lions can certainly improve upon that this year. Strong individual performers for the Lions will be Mike Vernoia, Tom Medvecky, and Myles O'Connor. Vernoia is coming off a fourth and ninth-place finish last year in the 200 and 500 freestyles. This year, Medvecky is seeded fifth in the 200 butterfly. O'Connor had a pair of fifth place finishes in the breaststroke events and is seeded in the top three for both this year. TCNJ should do well in the relays, in which they are seeded in the top eight for three of them.

8. University of Wisconsin Stevens Pt. Pointers: The Pointers finished eighth at last years championships and should do just as well this year. The team will be led by Ryan Farmer, who is seeded in the top eight for the 100 butterfly, Brent Schwartz, who is seeded in the top 10 of the 200 breaststroke, and Matt Olp who is seeded in the top 16 of the 100 butterfly and 50 freestyle. They should also put up some strong relay performances in the 400 medley relay, 200 medley relay, and 200 freestyle relay, all of which are seeded in the top 10.

9. Tufts University Jumbos: The Jumbos are coming off a strong performance at their conference meet and will be looking to improve upon the results of the past couple of years at the nationals. They will be led by their lone individual qualifier Owen Rood, who is seeded second in the 50 freestyle and seventh in the 100 freestyle. He will be anchoring the strong contingent of Jumbo relays. The 200 freestyle and 200 medley relays are both seeded sixth, while their 400 freestyle is seeded tenth. Also look for Patrick Kinsella, son of Olympic Champion John Kinsella, to swim well during the course of the week. The Jumbos also have diver Rob Matera who has scored the past two years and should be a factor in both the 1 and 3 meter.

10. Middlebury Panthers: The Panthers are my big upset pick. They only have six swimmers competing, but they should each have an impact on the final team standings. Leading the way for the Panthers will be Schuyler Beeman and John Dillon. Both had strong meets at the 2008 championships, but did not compete at nationals last year. Beeman is seeded fifth in the 50 freestyle and 17th in the 100 freestyle, while Dillon is seeded first in both the 100 and 200 butterfly. Dillon finished second in the 200 butterfly two years ago and fifth in the 100 butterfly. The Panthers are also seeded in the top three for both the 200 and 400 freestyle relays.

Also watch for Williams College, Carnegie Mellon University, and Hope College to try to push their way into the top 10.

Don't forget to look at my women's picks here.