GAMBIER, Ohio — Kenyon College, the most prolific program in the history of the NCAA swimming and diving, has assembled its most recent fleet of championship qualifiers and will the hit water Wednesday in search of its unprecedented 32nd consecutive Division III national title.
The Lords’ quest will unfold during the four-day championship meet, which is being held at the University of Tennessee’s Allan Jones Aquatic Center. For each day of the competition, preliminary heats begin at 10 a.m. ET and final heats get underway at 6 p.m.
Kenyon’s run at the 2011 title comes with a bit of a twist. The Lords, normally a team that qualifies the full championship roster of 18 swimmers, will be making the trip to Knoxville with 16. Emory University and Denison University, two of the top contenders for the title, will show up with 17 and 15 swimmers, respectively.
Last season, Kenyon ran away with the national title, setting a record for the largest margin of victory. The Lords racked up 696 team points at the meet held in Minneapolis while second-place Denison scored 272 points. Emory finished third last year and was followed by Kalamazoo College and Amherst College.
Although that roster size might be abnormal for Kenyon, the veteran leadership it contains is not. Nine swimmers on this year’s championship roster swam at the national meet a year ago. Included on that list are seniors Michael Mpitsos and Collin Ohning, who count 10 national event titles between them. Mpitsos, a backstroke specialist, has six relay titles to his credit, while Ohning, a breaststroke specialist, has four, including three consecutive titles as a part of the Lords’ 200-yard medley relay team.
Sophomore Ian Stewart-Bates has also emerged as a key ingredient in Kenyon’s relay success. As a freshman last season, he swam a leg on the winning 400-yard and 800-yard freestyle relay teams. Those results helped the Lords through a clean sweep of all five relay events in 2010 and helped extend a five-year run that’s witnessed Kenyon teams place first in 19 of the last 25 NCAA relay competitions.
Junior sprinter David Somers has also played a huge role in the program’s relay achievements. He has four relay titles on his resume and will attempt to capture his first career individual event title this year. He had top-five placements in the 50-, 100-, and 200-yard freestyle races at last year’s national championship and this year he’s seeded as one of the top two swimmers in each of those three events.
Kenyon’s lone returning individual event champion is junior Ian Bakk. He claimed gold in the 200-yard breaststroke and will look to become Kenyon’s first repeat winner in the event since Joey Gosselar pulled off back-to-back wins in 2006 and 2007.