GAMBIER — Crowned national champions 34 times in the past 38 seasons, the Kenyon College Lords swimming and diving team will head to Indianapolis, Indiana in search of a record 35th team title when the 2018 NCAA Division III Men’s Swimming & Diving Championship gets underway at Indiana University Natatorium.
The Lords’ current collection of 34 NCAA championship trophies ties them with the Oklahoma State University wrestling team for most titles won by a single sports program in the history of the NCAA.
The four-day championship meet kicks off Wednesday and concludes Saturday. Preliminary heats will be contested each morning at 10 a.m. and final heats will start at 6 p.m. each day.
Last season in Shenandoah, Texas, the Emory University Eagles surprised the rest of the field by scoring 438 teams points and earning their first-ever championship. Kenyon tallied 384 points and was runner-up ahead of Denison University, which scored 371 points, and Johns Hopkins University, which finished with 295 points.
The Lords, winners of an NCAA record 31 consecutive national titles from 1980 through 2010, last won it all in 2015, ending a shorter streak of three straight first-place finishes.
This year’s Kenyon team has 18 qualifying swimmers making the trip to the national meet. Denison is also sending the maximum 18 swimmers, Johns Hopkins will send 13 qualifiers and Emory will send a dozen.
The Lords’ championship roster is a young one, dominated by eight sophomores. That group’s previous NCAA experience is headlined by Mick Bartholomew, Connor Rumpit and Ben Baturka. Bartholomew was fifth in the 400-yard individual medley last season and has NCAA Division III’s second-best time (3:53.36) in the event this season. Rumpit was eighth in the 1,650-yard freestyle and 10th in the 500-yard freestyle, while Baturka took ninth in the 100-yard backstroke and swam a leg on both of Kenyon’s top-10 medley relay teams. Baturka enters this year’s meet with Division III’s second-best time (48.15) in the 100-yard backstroke.
Other returning qualifiers for Kenyon who had noteworthy swims at the 2017 NCAA Championship include junior Brooks McCoy and sophomore Colin Reardon, who placed sixth and 10th, respectively, in the 400-yard individual medley. Robert Williams, now a junior, placed fifth in the 500 last season and senior Jon Zimdars was fifth in the 200-yard butterfly. Both Williams and Zimdars contributed to top-10 finishing relay teams, as well. Additionally, Zimdars heads to the meet with the nation’s top time in the 200-yard butterfly (1:46.43).
After a year away from the national stage, senior Matt Leenhouts returns with NCAA Division III’s second-best time in both the 200-yard individual medley (1:48.72) and 200-yard freestyle (1:37.69). At the 2016 meet, Leenhouts was 10th in the 200-yard and ninth in the 400-yard individual medleys.
Don’t be surprised to see some new names make an impact, too. Sophomore transfer Reilly Shields appears poised for All-America swims in the sprints, while Kenyon’s freshman trio of Fielding Fischer, David Fitch and Tim Hagemeister is out to make an impression during its first taste of national competition.