|by Jocelyn Hopkinson '15 • February 13, 2013|
The Wabash College swimming and diving team will travel to Canton, Ohio today for the 2013 North Coast Athletic Conference Championships. The three-day event, which starts Thursday, will feature some of the top programs in the nation.
The NCAC is stacked with elite swimming programs. Denison, the defending NCAC champs and national champions in 2011 and 2012, is 19th in the CollegeSwimming.com rankings. Kenyon, winners of every NCAA men's national championship from 1980 to 2010 until being unseated by the Big Red, is fifth in the rankings while DePauw, a third-place finisher at last year's NCAC meet, is ranked 17th.
The Little Giants return nearly everyone from the goup that placed fourth behind Denison, Kenyon, and DePauw at the NCAC championship meet last year.
Despite the national prowess displayed by the three conference foes, sophomore Aaron Troyer claims Little Giant swimmers are only worried about themselves.
“As a team, we're focusing on specific events and staying confident,” Troyer said. “We're not necessarily worried about how fast Denison and Kenyon are; we're concerned with our race and keeping our mind set on our own lane.”
Valentine's Day won't be the first time Wabash faces swimming powerhouses. Its first official meet of the year was at Denison in the debut of the school's new natatorium — the future home of the NCAC championship meet. More recently, the Little Giants raced NCAA Division II's University of Indianapolis and nationally-ranked Division III power Kalamazoo College. The exposure to these top programs is something Wabash will rely upon.
“Our guys know that nothing will surprise them in terms of times,” Coach Steve Barnes said. “If anything, our guys are just hungry. They want to win; they want to do well and perform at the level the other teams are at. For us, swimming against tough competition shows our guys where they want to be and how they're going to get there.”
“We won't be afraid of the competition, but instead, we'll be ready for it,” Troyer added.
Troyer and his teammates are ready to do more than awe at Denison and Kenyon. Carter Adams, Zechariah Banks, Steve Batchelder, Elliot Johns, and Jack Belford as swimmers to watch for Wabash. Belford enters the week with the sixth-quickest time among NCAC swimmers in the 1650-yard freestyle (16:33.55) and is among the top-16 in the 500 free (4:45.76). Adams owns the best times for Wabash in the 100-yard butterfly (52.56), the 200 fly (1:55.36), and the 200 individual medley (1:59.29). Banks is in his first semester at Wabash after starting at Indiana University, but has already posted the team's best effort this year in the 200 breaststroke (2:13.91).
Batchelder, along with Josh Bleisch, provide a powerful tandem in the 100 breaststroke. Bleish is quickest with a time of 1:01.22 this year. Batchelder posted a 1:01.27 at the Calvin Invitational earlier in the season — a meet similar in structure to the NCAC Championship event. Johns holds top marks for the squad in the 100 free (47.09) and 200 free (1:44.08).
Troyer will also be ready to make his mark at the NCAC meet. Earlier this year, he set the school record in the 100 meter backstroke with a time of 51.8 seconds.
“A lot of us are going for national cuts so we're just we're just concerned with ourselves and our team and no one else,” he said.
Troyer explained how he could still make nationals without obtaining the qualifying time. If all the slots are not filled through automatic time qualifiers, then the guys with the fastest remaining times in the country will be invited to nationals—known as “B cuts.”