For five years now Keene State College swimming coach Jack Fabian has wanted to be nationally ranked. Finally that goal has been reached after this past weekend’s NCAA Division III championships.
When the competition was over the Owls men’s team finished 23rd in the nation, while the women’s team ended the year at 17th in the country. This was the first time KSC has been nationally ranked in Coach Fabian’s tenure.
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“It has been a goal for a long time to be nationally ranked and I’m extremely excited about the recognition we’ve brought to Keene State,” Fabian said. “Now we need to maintain the honor and tradition we have instilled in our swim program.”
The men’s team went into the weekend with high expectations and succeeded in the eyes of their coach. They competed against DIII swim powerhouses Denison, Emory, and 31-year consecutive national champion Kenyon.
Attending the event for the men’s team were senior leaders Cody Larrimore and Connor Pennoyer. Underclassmen included freshman sensations Drew Ledwith, Jared Hyde, and sophomore Austin Harris.
The relay team included everyone except Ledwith, who was the only team member to qualify for events as an individual.
The relay team qualified for four separate relay events. They ended up earning points in two of the four events for a total of 20 points. They placed 14th in the 400 freestyle (six points) and 10th in the 200 freestyle, gaining 14 points. The rest of the Owls’ points came from Ledwith’s individual performance in the 1650-yard freestyle event where he finished third in all of Division III, gaining 16 points.
Overall, the men had a successful season, and even though they are losing two great seniors the future looks bright with their surplus of young talent.
The Keene women’s team had a very successful weekend at the Championships as well, finishing six spots higher than the men did in the national ranks. The women who attended the event were juniors Jill Whitaker and Maureen O’Leary. The underclassmen were sophomore Kaila Umbarger and freshman Lianna Wissman.
Like the men, the women qualified for four relay events. They would earn points in two them, finishing eighth in 200 medley (22 points) and 12th in the 400 medley (10 points).
The team earned a total of 55 points, and a large reason for that was the individual performances of Whitaker and Umbarger. Whitaker gained four points in the 100 breaststroke event, finishing in 13th.
Umbarger seemed to be the star of the meet for the women’s team. She earned points in all three of her individual events. Her best finish was fiftth in the 50-yard freestyle where she gained 14 points.
Overall Umbarger earned 19 points for the team. The women’s team has to be looking forward to next year as they won’t be losing any of the girls who qualified for the NCAA Championships.
Look out for Umbarger on the national scene next year, especially at her specialty event, the freestyle.
The outlook for KSC swimming seems to be great.
With the national recognition the school is now getting, recruits should start to pour in. That, along with the talent pool that is already at KSC, should only help the team climb the national ranks.
The 2010-2011 season was extremely successful for the Owls, but the expectations for next year have now risen. The Owls look to continue their march towards becoming a national powerhouse in the pool.
Dan Paesan can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org