Men’s swimming and diving finishes 8th at NESCACs

By MIGUEL ESPINOSA

In sports, proximity breeds rivalry. Such a dynamic does not exclude itself from the NESCAC; Williams and Middlebury sit two hours apart from each other on Route 9. 

The men’s swimming and diving teams ventured to Williamstown to compete in the NESCAC Championships, which was hosted by their purple-and-gold rival, on Thursday, Feb. 20. Ultimately, Williams dominated at their own pool and grabbed first place with 1987.5 points. The Panthers finished in eighth place with 565 points. Tufts placed second with 1787.5 points and Amherst third with 1386.5 points. 

One notable performance during the four-day meet included a seventh-place finish in the 400-yard medley relay by Ben Merz0 ’23, Bryan Chang ’22, Will Panos ’20, and Corey Jalbert ’21 on Friday. The squad clocked in at 3:26:25. Diver Jason Rickenbacher ’23 also posted a ninth-place finish during the one-meter diving board that same day. On Saturday, Alec Wilson took eighth in the 1,000-yard free event and recorded a time of 9:45.75. The quartet of Merz, Chang, Panos, and Jalbert concluded the Panthers’ weekend on Sunday with a fifth-place finish in the 400-yard freestyle relay. 

“My swims weren’t exactly the times I was hoping for, but it was great scoring points for the team and representing Middlebury,” said Wilson, when asked to assess his performance during NESCACs. “I was able to race against some outstanding swimmers, and seeing just how strong the competition is getting is really motivating me to hit the off-season hard next year.” 

Wilson also gathered inspiration from the resilience of his teammates, especially when Coach Rueppel left the meet on Thursday because of a medical emergency. 

“I am really proud of our team for the mental game we held over the meet,” he said. “With Coach having to leave the meet so early, we had a very unique challenge on our hands. We went into every session ready to race for him, and I think we saw some really fast times as a result.”

A final source of energy may have come from the bleachers. Alongside the swimmers’ parents, many members of the women’s squad brought their support to Williams’ natatorium. 

“Watching the men’s team compete is exciting because the women’s season is over, so we can completely focus on cheering for their races,” said Audrey Kelly ’21. “Almost the entire team went down to Williams to watch and the energy in the stands was very high. The men’s team competed really well and I know they appreciated us coming.”