GAMBIER, Ohio — The quest for its record 24th NCAA Division III women’s swimming and diving championship trophy won’t be an easy one for Kenyon College. While the Ladies are taking a talented roster to Knoxville, Tenn., for the start of the national meet on Wednesday, several stern challengers stand between Kenyon and its goal of returning to the top of the podium.
Based on sheer numbers alone, Emory University and Denison University are the favorites to contend for the title again in 2011. Emory topped Denison 568.5-452 last season and each school qualified a maximum roster of 18 swimmers for this year’s championships.
The Kenyon Ladies will be a little short-handed with a roster of 14 with sights set on improving their fourth-place finish in 2010. Williams College, which edged Kenyon for third place 367-318, will also send 14 swimmers into the water at the University of Tennessee’s Jones Aquatic Center.
The Ladies will look to a pair of former national champions to lead their charge. Senior Kati Meirs won the 1,650-yard freestyle at the 2008 national championships and added All-America certificates in the event in each of the past two seasons. Junior Alisa Vereshchagin took first in the 200-yard breaststroke title as a freshman and overall has piled up nine All-America awards in two seasons.
Another anchor of experience for Kenyon is senior Lauren Brady, a 16-time All-American. Brady enters her final championship meet in search of her first national title, but she has consistently been one of the Ladies’ top performers on the big stage. Of Brady’s 16 All-America awards, 13 have come in an event in which she’s finished fifth or better.
A pair of Kenyon sophomores will also be worth keeping an eye on during the four-day meet. Anna Connolly reveled in the NCAA spotlight as a freshman by capturing All-America status in all seven events in which she competed. Hannah Saiz owns the nation’s top time (2:01.27) in the 200-yard butterfly and won the North Coast Athletic Conference title in the event last month.
Freshman Mary Bank could be in line to make a big splash in her NCAA debut. Bank enters the competition with top-10 seeds in a trio of events: the 50-yard freestyle, and the 100- and 200-yard backstrokes.