INDIANAPOLIS –– Denison men's swimming & diving returned to the top of the winners' podium, capturing the 2018 NCAA Division III national championship at IU Natatorium.
The Big Red built a substantial lead after the first night and that lead only continued to snowball. At the conclusion of the 20-event championship, the Big Red totaled 596.5 points. That equated to a 227-point victory over second-place Emory. This is the fourth national championship for the men's swimming & diving program and the fifth in the history of both the men's and women's programs.
Most of Denison's previous national championships have been jam-packed with drama. Total domination seems to be the most appropriate way to describe the 2018 title.
The Big Red's depth was on full display across all of the strokes. On Friday night, the 800 free relay national title highlighted the night. It also marked the program's 100th event national championship. On Saturday, Denison posted eight, top-eight finishes and one more event win.
Sophomore Bebe Wang went from third to first over his final 50 yards to win the 200 backstroke. Wang touched with a personal best time of 1:45.37 to win by 0.27 seconds. This is the fourth 200 backstroke national championship by a Denison men's swimmer. He is the first winner since Robert Barry in 2012. Following in fifth place for Denison was senior Jason Wesseling in 1:48.03. He had placed eighth in the event in each of the last two years.
Denison junior Matt Hedman continued his impressive championship performance by placing second in the 1,650 freestyle. Hedman improved his personal best time by 10.64 seconds to touch in 15:17.29. On Wednesday, Hedman was the runner-up in the 500 free and he took fourth on Thursday night in the 400 IM. Last year, Hedman finished 10th in the mile with a time of 15:41.40, marking a 24-second drop over his time in 2017.
Sophomore James Baker followed in third place with a time of 15:31.35. That was a 4.60 second time drop off his personal best.
If you wanted high drama, the 200 breaststroke had it. It was a three-man race between Denison's Jake Ball, who posted a new varsity record in prelims (1:59.56), DePauw's Sam McManus and NYU's Giorgio Delgrosso. Ball led after a 100 split of 56.86. Delgrosso took over the lead at the 150 mark, but McManus edged Ball by 0.11 to capture DePauw's first-ever men's national title. Ball knocked nearly a second off his record-time in the morning, hitting the wall in 1:58.68. Ryan Stevenson placed seventh in 2:01.65 and Tiernan Foster-Smith took third in the consolation final to place 11th in 2:01.46. That was a new PR for Foster-Smith. DU's three-man attack resulted in 35 points toward the cause.
In the 100 freestyle, senior Zach Wagner notched his fourth All-American swim of the meet with an eighth-place finish and a time of 45.26.
The championship was wrapped up by a third-place finish in the 400 free relay. Wagner, the senior anchor on the relay, put together a 43.78 split to bring the Big Red from the middle of the pack to the bronze finish. Drake Horton, Stuart Hohm, Matt McHugh and Wagner touched in 2:59.08.
Denison's 596.5 team points equated to a 225.5 point improvement over last year's third-place showing in Texas. The 227-point margin of victory is the largest in any of Denison's four national championships.
The team amassed 32 top-8 finishes, three event national championships and 39 top-16 (All-American) finishes. In the post-meet awards ceremony, Denison head coach Gregg Parini was named the Men's National Coach of the Year for the seventh time on the men's side and 11th time, overall.