Nike Invitational Day Three

GAMBIER, Ohio, December 6. THE Kenyon College men's swim team continued its string of outstanding performances at the Nike Invitational and finished the three-day meet with a flourish Saturday. The Lords entered the final day of competition only four points ahead of second-place University of Pennsylvania, but used five wins to secure first place over the Quakers, 1437-1395.5.

Kenyon captured its second-straight team title at the Nike Invitational by winning 12 of the 18 events contested during the weekend. The Lords also piled up 23 NCAA automatic qualifying times, 10 Kenyon Aquatic Center pool records, and one College record. Twelve of those 'A' cuts and five of the top times came during Saturday's action.

The Kenyon men immediately put some distance between themselves and Penn in the 200-yard medley relay, the first event of the evening finals. The Lords placed not one, but two relay squads atop the standings as both clocked in under the NCAA automatic qualifying standard. The team of sophomores Michael Mpitsos (Newport, OR/Newport) and Collin Ohning (Greenville, SC/Christ Church Episcopal), junior Nat Carruthers (Longmont, CO/Shining Mountain), and freshman Zachary Turk (Strongsville, OH/St. Edward) took first place and set a pool record with a 1:29.20 finish, then watched the 'B' squad stop the clock at 1:30.92.

The lead swelled further in the 100-yard butterfly where Kenyon dominated the top three spots. Senior Matthew Harris (Laurel, MD/DeMatha) set a new KAC pool standard in the event with his 48.47 showing in the super final. Carruthers (48.81) and junior Blair Withington (Hastings, New Zealand/Hastings Boys') (49.02) joined Harris below the 'A' cut time of 49.40, as did senior Michael Machala (Twin Falls, ID/Twin Falls) after hitting the wall in 49.04 in the consolation final.

The Lords continued to clog the top of the scoreboard in the 100-yard freestyle where Withington and Turk finished one-two in the super final. Withington set a new pool record and earned a trip to the NCAA Championships with a time of 44.58, while Turk's time of 44.87 also punched his ticket to the national meet. Freshman David Somers (North Potomac, MD/Quince Orchard) also slipped in ahead of the 'A' cut standard with a 44.61 finish in the consolation swim.

Withington, Mpitsos, Turk, and Somers were also record-breakers in the 400-yard freestyle relay as their time of 2:58.04 topped the previous best by nearly four seconds. The relay squad also checked in under the automatic qualifying time in the event.

Mpitsos notched another record and one more 'A' cut on his own with a swim of 1:48.58 in the 200-yard backstroke. All told, Mpitsos had a hand in eight 'A' cuts, seven wins, and five pool records this weekend.

The other four participating schools were merely observers as Kenyon and Penn vied for first place over the past three days. Davidson College was a distant third with 398 points, followed by Carnegie Mellon University (392.5 pts.), Johns Hopkins University (274 pts.), and Colgate University (218 pts.).

For the women, sophomore Kaitlyn Meirs (Cream Ridge, NJ/Peddie) knocked off one of the oldest marks in the Kenyon College record book and made sure the Ladies swim team finished second in Saturday's final standings of the Nike Invitational. Kenyon finished with 870.5 points, but it was the University of Kansas that won the Invitational title with 1,319 points.

In the second event of Saturday's final session, Meirs flew through the 500-yard freestyle and hit the wall with a time of 4:55.21. That time was good for second place, but more importantly it replaced the old Kenyon record of 4:56.30 set by Jessica Berkowitz in 1993.

Not to be outdone, Kenyon freshman Alisa Vereshchagin (Solon, OH/Solon) pulled off the same feat two events later, as she established a new Kenyon standard in the 200-yard breaststroke. Her time of 2:16.86 was good for first place in the event and lopped off nearly two seconds from the former record of 2:18.51 set by Jessica Connors in 2005.

Although the Ladies were putting up jaw-dropping times, the Division I Jayhawks were just too powerful to overcome in the team standings. Throughout the three-day meet, Kansas won 15 of the 18 events contested and set new Kenyon Aquatic Center pool records in 14 of those events. After Kansas and Kenyon had their say, Colgate University squeaked by the University of Pennsylvania to claim third place. Colgate racked up 673 points, while Penn piled up 663.5 points. Davidson College (326) was fifth, Johns Hopkins University (200) was sixth, and Carnegie Mellon University (150) placed seventh.

In addition to Meirs' and Vereshchagin's remarkable swims for Kenyon, junior Tina Ertel (Halle, Germany/Sportgymnasium Halle) had a solid night and cleared the NCAA automatic qualifying marks in two events. She did so by winning the 200-yard backstroke consolation final with a time of 2:03.95 and by winning the 200-yard individual medley consolation final with a time of 2:04.79. She also swam a leg on both the Ladies' 200-yard medley relay (1:42.21) and 400-yard freestyle relay (3:27.24) teams that cleared NCAA 'A' cuts.

Special thanks to Kenyon for contributing this report.