CMS Men's Swimming and Diving Looks to Cap Perfect SCIAC Regular Season with League Title
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CLAREMONT, Calif. - The Claremont-Mudd-Scripps men's swimming and diving team enters the SCIAC Championships as the league favorites, and they will head to the Brenda Villa Aquatic Center in Commerce, Calif. looking to fulfill that potential at the four-day championships, beginning on Thursday evening at 6 p.m.
The Stags won 10 straight league titles from 2008 to 2017, but have finished as the runner-up in each of the last two seasons. This year, they hope that a strong regular season in league competition will translate to the postseason and bring the program back to the top of the conference. CMS went undefeated in SCIAC duals this year, and is ranked No. 11 in the nation, just ahead of No. 13 Pomona-Pitzer, which will once again provide the toughest competition for the league title.
Senior Kendall Hollimon helped to give the Stags some early points by winning both the one-meter and the three-meter diving events at Axelrood Pool last weekend. He was joined at nationals a year ago by junior Marco Conati, who will look to duplicate his sweep of the 100 fly and the 50 free after a sophomore season which saw him earn All-America honors with a fourth-place finish in the 100 fly at the Division III Championships in Greensboro.
Here is an event-by-event look a the top contenders for CMS (note: swimmers are allowed to compete in a maximum of three individual events, which means several Stags will not be able to swim in every event they rank highly).
Conati is the prohibitive favorite in the 100 fly after reaching the All-America podium last season. This year, his top time of 48.36 places him 12th nationally heading into the postseason, less than a quarter-second out of sixth as he strives to earn his way back into the All-America picture. Within the SCIAC, he is one of only two league swimmers to come in under 50 seconds, and the other is teammate Nathan Luis, one of the talented first-years in the program who swam a 49.39 in the dual with Pomona-Pitzer. First-year Thayer Breazeale also places fifth in the league and has All-SCIAC potential.
First-year Ben Smith is the top CMS swimmer in the 200 fly at 1:53.54, which ranks fifth, while the Stags have three others within the cutoff for the nine-swimmer finals in Breazeale (seventh), senior Henry Limm (eighth) and sophomore Matthew Waddell (ninth). Sophomore Michael Lee is 13th and Luis places 19th.
The Stags are very deep in the breaststroke, with six of the top nine swimmers in the 200 breast wearing the scarlet and gold. Three have strong All-SCIAC potential as Sam Willett places second, junior Sean Hoerger third and senior Henry Limm fourth. Three others are above the cutoff for finals based on their seed times, as first-year Alec Vercruysse is sixth, senior Andrew Bradjan is eighth and sophomore Walter Limm is ninth. Senior Bradley Newton places 13th and also could find his way into the finals.
The 100 breast doesn't have quite the same level of dominance as the 200, but the Stags still have four of the top seven, giving them the potential to earn significant points towards the team total. Walkter Limm places second with a time of 56.22, with Willett fourth, Hoerger sixth and Vercruysse seventh.
The backstroke is another strong event for the Stags, with four of the top six in the 100, led by first-year Anderson Breazeale, who was the only SCIAC swimmer this year to break 50 seconds (49.32), a time which places him No. 17 in the country. Three other CMS swimmers have hopes of earning their way onto the podium, with sophomore Nick Tan placing fourth, senior Dave Makhervaks fifth and first-year Nick Zhang in sixth in the pre-championship seedings.
Breazeale is the second seed in the 200 back, but very close behind Jason Lu of Pomona-Pitzer, as the two are separated by only four-hundredths of a second (1:50.22 to 1:50.26). Willett, Zhang, Tan and Makhervaks rank fifth through eighth in the event as well, which gives the Stags a lot of potential to have multiple swimmers in the finals.
CMS is all over the top 10 in both IM events this season, with Willett recording the second-best SCIAC time in the 200 IM (1:51.66) and Smith the No. 2 time in the 400 IM (4:00.02). In the 200, Vercruysse places third, Smith places fifth, Tan seventh, Hoerger ninth and Makhervaks tenth, to give the Stags six of the top 10.
Behind Smith in the 400 IM is Henry Limm in fourth and junior Kyrellos Ibrahim in fifth, who both hope to be in the hunt for All-SCIAC honors. Bradjan places seventh, Tan ninth and Vercryusse 11th, which gives the Stags six of the top 11 times in the league so far this winter.
CMS has the top three times in the 50 free this season, led by defending champion Marco Conati, who has a top time of 20.79 this winter. According to the seed times, if Conati is unable to repeat in the 50, it'll be one of his own teammates who knocks him off, as junior Andreas Roeseler was only three-hundredths of a second behind him, while Anderson Breazeale was only .12 behind him as well. Junior Will Grassle (eighth), Newton (10th) and junior Daniel Hayon (11th) also have finals potential, with Hayon looking to exceed his seed time after missing the fall semester studying abroad.
Conati also places second in the 100 free, but only .04 behind Anzo DeGiulio of Pomona-Pitzer, while Roeseler places third in 46.13. Roeseler will also likely be used to anchor CMS relays this weekend, which can often be the difference in tight competitions. Anderson Breazeale and Luis tied for the ninth-best 100 free time in the SCIAC this year with Grassle in 11th.
Anderson Breazeale will be unlikely to swim the 100 free, as his top freestyle event is the 200, where he is the top seed as the only SCIAC swimmer to come in under 1:40 this winter (1:39.44), ranking 20th nationally. Senior Ben Culberson is fifth in the SCIAC, while Thayer Breazeale is seventh, sophomore Michael Lee is 10th and Tan is 12th.
Culberson heads into the SCIACs with the potential for some intriguing races against defending champion Paddy Baylis of Pomona-Pitzer. Culberson stayed right behind Baylis in the regular season dual meet, finishing just over three seconds behind him in the 1650 and only one second behind him in the 500.
CMS also has several other swimmers who will look to score highly in the distance events. First-year Joe Zales had the fourth-best time in the 1650 and the sixth-best time in the 500. Lee had the seventh-best time in both races, junior Abel Sapirstein was eighth in the 1650 and ninth in the 500 and Ibrahim was 10th in the 1650 and 11th in the 500. Senior Alex Moody is 14th in the 500 and will try to earn a spot in the finals in his last SCIAC Championship.
Schedule of Events
The schedule of events will feature a pair of relays in a short schedule on Thursday, with the 200 medley relay followed by the 800 freestyle relay. Friday, Saturday and Sunday will feature morning prelims and evening finals, with the Friday events including the 500 free, 200 IM, 50 free and the 200 free relay. Saturday will include the 400 IM, the 100 fly, the 200 free, the 100 breast and the 100 back, and conclude with the 400 medley relay. Sunday's final day will have the 200 back, 100 free, 200 breast, 200 fly, the 1650, and will conclude with the 400 free relay.