Nikki Venema, Princeton Sprint Depth Help Reclaim Ivy League Women’s Crown

Photo Courtesy: Ivy League Athletics

Nikki Venema, Princeton Sprint Depth Help It Reclaim Ivy League Women’s Crown

Behind a sprint triple by Nikki Venema and unrelenting sprint depth, the Princeton women reclaimed the Ivy League title this week at its home Denunzio Pool.

Princeton scored 1,480 points to pull away from Harvard and dethrone the Crimson as champions. Princeton last won the meet in 2020. It’s their 24th championship overall.

It’s a fitting culmination for Venema, a senior who was named the meet’s high point scorer. She won the 50 freestyle, 100 free and 100 butterfly this week, and contributed legs on the winning 200 medley, 800 free, 200 free and 400 free relays. That brings her to 13 career Ivy League titles, after winning the 100 fly last year and doing the 50-100-200 triple in 2020.

Ivy League Women’s Championships Team Scores

  1. Princeton 1,480
  2. Harvard 1,254
  3. Yale 1,158.5
  4. Brown 951.5
  5. Columbia 910.5
  6. Penn 832
  7. Cornell 552
  8. Dartmouth 255.5

Nikki Venema and her teammates started the meet on a high. They took down the meet record in the 200 medley relay, undercutting a mark set in 2017 by Yale. Venema teamed with Alexa Pappas, Margaux McDonald and Sabrina Johnston for a foursome that went 1:36.89, breaking the record by four tenths. Venema led off the winning 800 free record, which set a pool mark of 7:05.85. Johnston, Caroline Lewitt and Ellie Marquardt rounded out that squad.

The 50 free proved indicative of the Tigers’ dominance. Venema won in 22.23 seconds. The Tigers went 1-2-4-5-8 in the final, Amelia Liu in second, Elzbieta Noble fourth and Johnston fifth. Unsurprisingly, that foursome won the 200 free relay in a meet-record time of 1:29.22, downing the mark set by Yale a year earlier.

Venema won the 100 fly in 51.95, then took the 100 free in 48.33, a 1-2 finish with Johnston. She led off the 400 free relay, which set a pool record of 3:15.25. Johnston, Noble and Liu rounded out that squad.

Venema had plenty of company on the podium. Eliza Brown won the 200 individual medley in 1:58.58, with McDonald second. Princeton also went 1-2 in the 400 IM, Marquardt winning in 4:12.69 with Meg Wheeler a spot back. McDonald won the 200 breaststroke and was third in the 100, Brown was third in the 200 breast and Marquardt was second in the 200 free. Princeton swept the diving events courtesy of freshman Charlotte Martinkus.

Harvard’s bid to retain the title was boosted by its win in the 400 medley relay. Anya Mostek, Kaia Li, Sydney Lu and Samantha Shelton won in 3:35.64, denying Princeton the clean sweep of the relays by .06 seconds and setting a pool mark in the process.

Shelton wrapped up a stellar career by being named the season’s top career point-scorer, with 348 points over four editions of the Ivy League championships. She was unable to defend her crown in the 200 IM, settling for third after winning it in 2019 and 2022. But she won the 200 free in 1:46.13, and she continued Harvard’s dominion over the 200 back by winning in 1:54.42. Second was Mostek. Shelton won the event in 2019 but saw teammate Felicia Pasadyn win it at the next two installments.

Mostek won the 100 back for Harvard in 52.77, denying Brown’s Jenna Reznicek a second straight crown. Reznicek finished second in 53.00. Lu finished second in the 100 fly. Harvard finished second and third in both diving events, Nina Janmyr securing two bronze medals. Elizabeth Miclau, the 2022 3-meter champ, medaled again in second.

Yale finished third in the team standings. They were led by a 1-2 result in the 100 breast, Jessey Li breaking a minute in 59.96 and followed by teammate Ava Franks. Franks was also second in the 200 breast. Alex Massey was second in the 200 fly and third in the 100 fly. The Bulldogs added bronze medals via Raime Jones in the 200 free and Lindsey Wagner in the 100 back.

Despite finishing sixth in the team standings, Penn’s distance program shone again. Anna Kalandadze was the star, taking down the meet record in the 1,650 on Saturday. She clocked in at 15:53.88, a winning margin of 26 seconds. She downs the conference record of 15:57.34 set way back in 2009 by Princeton’s Alicia Aemisegger.

Kalandadze also won the 500 free and was third in the 400 IM. Both distance free events were podium sweeps, with 2022 500 free champ Catherine Buroker second and Anna Moehn third. In the mile, Kalandadze was followed to the wall by Sydney Bergstrom and Moehn. Vanessa Chong took bronze in the 200 fly.

Columbia got a win via Karen Liu, who went 1:55.99 in the 200 fly. The Lions’ Emily MacDonald was third in the 50 free and fourth in the 100 free, a spot behind Morgan Lukinac of Brown in the latter.

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