At the North Coast Athletic Conference Swimming & Diving Championships at C.T. Branin Natatorium inCanton, Ohio Feb. 8-10, the Tigers broke through. No, they didn’t end the greatest dynasty in all of sports— Kenyon College’s men and women, who have won 33 of a possible 34 NCAC titles over the last 17years, took their customary positions atop the standings, while Denison University proved once again that ithas fielded teams that will rank among the top four or five teams in the country.
But Wittenberg did move up to fourth place in both the men’s and women’s standings in 2001. It was the bestfinish for either team in years, and the 805.5 points on the men’s side and 770 points on the women’s sidewere easily the most ever scored by Tiger teams in the NCAC Championships. In addition, a school-recordnine Tiger swimmers advanced to the NCAA Division III National Championship meet in Buffalo, N.Y.March 8-10 (women) and 15-17 (men), and a total of 17 Wittenberg school records took a tumble.
And just for good measure, Head Coach Bob Rueppel earned Coach of the Year honors for theimprovement shown on both the men's and women's sides.
Leading the charge was senior Aaron Edsall of Circleville, Ohio, who captured the NCAC title in the100-yard backstroke in a school-record time of 51.22. Edsall, who is just the third Tiger swimmer to advanceto the NCAA Championships four straight years, made the national meet in the 200 back and 50 freestyle,and he swam a school record 46.30 in the 100 free, as well. He also plans to compete in the 400 medleyrelay, 200 medley relay, 400 free relay and 200 free relay (teams that advance four or more swimmers to theNCAA meet can enter those competitors in relay events) there.
Wittenberg’s other individual conference champion was junior Jeremy Lazarus of Moens, France, whofollowed in his brother’s footsteps by winning the 100 breaststroke at the conference meet. Julien Lazaruswas a four-time champion in the event from 1995-98, and he remains the school’s only four-timeAll-American.
A total of four men qualified for the national meet. Freshman Steve Rader of Concord, Ohio swam wellenough in the 200 Individual Medley to automatically gain a berth, and he will also compete there in the 100butterfly, 100 free and all four relays. Rader, Edsall and Lazarus will be joined in those relays by junior BobRafferty of Mount Vernon, Ohio, whose times in the splits at the conference meet advanced him for the firsttime in his career and contributed to two school records. In the 400 free relay, Edsall, Rafferty, Lazarus andRader posted a record time of 3:10.24, and then in the 800 free relay, Edsall, Rafferty, Rader and freshmanMatt Werbach of Painesville, Ohio put up a mark of 7:03.91.
On the women’s side, junior distance freestyle specialist Rachel Juergens, a graduate of nearby CatholicCentral High School in Springfield, turned in one of the greatest individual performances in school history,finishing second in the 200 free and 1650 free and contributing to two third-place relay finishes as well. Shequalified for the national meet in the 1650 free, 500 free and 200 free, is scheduled to compete in the 400medley relay, 400 free relay and 200 free relay there as well, and, most remarkably, set four individual schoolrecords in the process. Juergens posted Wittenberg-best times of 1:55.85 in the 200 free, 5:04.09 in the 500free, 17:24.28 in the 1650 free, and 10:29.21 in the 1000 free (recorded as a split during the 1650competition).
Juergens was also an integral part of three of Wittenberg’s four record-setting relay times posted in Cantonover the weekend. Joining her on the 400 free relay, which posted a time of 3:37.61, were junior MelissaBeck of Williamsville, N.Y., senior Alison Dingus of Lexington, Ky., and freshman Courtney Galliger ofEagan, Minn. The 800 free relay foursome of Beck, Dingus, junior Betsy Godin of Downington, Pa., Dingusand Juergens finished in school record time of 7:57.32. The 200 medley relay of senior Melanie Edsall ofCircleville, Ohio, junior Paula Hauser of Mason, Ohio, Beck and Galliger swam a time of 1:50.15 toestablish a new standard. And the 400 medley relay quartet of Edsall, Hauser, Beck and Juergens recorded anew school best in a time of 4:00.57.
In all, five women will be making the trip to Buffalo for the big meet. Hauser advanced to the national meet forthe first time by setting school records in the 100 and 200 breaststroke events, putting up times of 1:08.58and 2:26.66 respectively. Beck, who also will be making her first trip to nationals, qualified in the 100 butterflyand 100 free. Melanie Edsall put up times in several relays that were enough to qualify her for the year-endcompetition. And Galliger also swam well enough in her splits of the relays to gain a national meet berth.