Last season’s highlights included defeating Middlebury College 140-103 and breaking 14 of 23 college swimming records, including all five relay events. The only loss, 141.5-155.5, came at Williams College when the Ephs’ sheer numbers overpowered the smaller Jeff squad.
At the NESCAC Championships last year Amherst placed second with the majority of the team contributing points. Brittany Sasser ’08 tied the 200-yard individual medley meet record and set two backstroke conference records. Julie Kim ’08, Sasser, Rebecca Stein ’05 and Margaret Ramsey ’07 won the 800-yard freestyle relay by a full seven seconds, smashing the meet record.
Amherst sent its largest group in history to Nationals and finished fifth last year. Posting the best NCAA performance in school history, the Jeffs tallied top-eight finishes in nine events and top-16 in seven more. Sasser stood out as she won two backstroke national titles.
After such a successful season, it’s no surprise that several conributors graduated in the class of 2005-many of them four-year contributors. For most squads, losing nearly half of the squad to graduation would be a major setback, but the Jeffs actually expect to be better.
“With 12 new members, the team has grown in size because we only lost nine seniors,” explained Mia Anderson ’06. “One of our problems in the past has been the fact that we’re smaller than most other NESCAC teams, but now we can compete not only in speed but in size.”
Co-captains Anderson and Ramsey are excited by the potential of the new team members this season. First-year freestylers include Meaghan Stern, Ellen Hewitt, Mary Marvel, Erin Morrison, Kara MacLaverty and Margaret Tato. Other first-years include breaststroker Jackie de la Fuente, backstroker and freestyler Alex Lee and butterflier Kiley Wong.First-years Sabrina Dorman and Hannah Shayer, along with newcomer Lauren Villarroel ’08, form the new diving squad.
Talented returning swimmers include seniors Anderson and Gretchen Sisson, juniors Jasmina Cheung-Lau, Natalie Dyer and Ramsey. Piper Pettersen ’07 and Lisa Rubinger ’07 will join the squad second semester when they return from their studies abroad. Sophomores include Kim, Jen Lewkowitz, Suzie Luft, Lisa Pritchard and Sasser.
The team is aiming high this season, armed with talent and growing depth. “It would be great to go undefeated and send a large group of girls to nationals once again,” said Anderson. “One of our main goals is to beat Williams in the dual meet at our pool like we did two years ago.”
“We’d also really like everyone to place at NESCACs,” added Ramsey. “I think everyone will be surprised at how fast they swim this season.”
The Jeffs kick of their season with a NESCAC meet at Colby College on Saturday.
Williams has five straight NESCAC titles, helped by three-time 100-yard breaststroke national champion Lindsay Payne and backstroker Meghan Faughnan. Middlebury is another strong team, armed with Sara Cowie, a distance swimmer who has won three events at NESCACs. Another Panther to watch is Marika Ross, Sasser’s individual medley rival.