Seven Jeffs traveled to Emory University in Atlanta over spring break to compete between March 20 and 23. Amherst last finished in the top 10 in the country in 1970 when the Lord Jeffs took sixth place. In 2002, Amherst finished just out of the top 10, in 11th place.
After finishing the regular season undefeated with a record of 9-0 and finishing second in the NESCAC Championships, the Jeffs had high expectations for their trip to Nationals. “As a team, our goal was to beat everyone else in NESCAC and to reassert ourselves as the team to beat, which was successful,” said senior co-captain Ben Hopkins. “To show that we beat all the other NESCAC teams by a significant margin was great.”
Pohorylo also expressed confidence coming into the championship. “We were pretty sure we were a top-10 team,” he said.
Amherst began the first day of competition with a solid showing in the 200-yard freestyle relay. The team of Bryan Woo ’06, Rick Estacio ’06, Chuck Clinton ’05 and senior co-captain Pat Kennedy finished in 14th place with a time of 1:25.19 in the championship and 1:24.98 in the preliminaries.
Estacio, Pohorylo, Woo and Kennedy ended the day with a sixth place finish in the 400-yard medley relay. After a preliminary time of 3:25.74 put them in eighth place, they shaved nearly a second off their final time 3:24.83 to take sixth. These two team performances garnered Amherst an 11th-place standing overall by the end of the first day with 36 points, just behind Union College, who held the final spot in the top 10 with 39 points.
The Jeffs began day two of competition in similar style, reaching eighth place in the 200-yard medley relay. Estacio, Pohorylo, Woo and Kennedy came in sixth in the preliminary round with a time of 1:33.90. In the finals, the foursome swam almost as quickly, finishing in eighth with 1:33.98.
Two events later, Woo took to the pool again for the 100-yard butterfly. His time of 50.47 in the preliminary round placed him 11th overall. In the finals, Woo swam a solid 51.65 for 16th place.
The rest of the relay team was not done yet. In the 100-yard breaststroke, Pohorylo placed fifth with a time of 57.18, followed by Kennedy in 14th place in 58.09. Immediately following the 100-yard backstroke, Estacio turned in a time of 51.82, to move up from 16th after the preliminary round to 13th place in the championship.
On the heels of these fine individual performances came the 800-yard freestyle relay event. Steve Shapiro ’04, Pohorylo, Woo and Clinton combined for 15th place in 6:59.60. This string of successes allowed the Jeffs to jump to ninth place overall in the team standings, entering the final day of competition with 83.5 points.
Shapiro opened up Amherst’s third and final day of competition in the 2002-03 season by finishing seventh in the 1650-yard freestyle race. Shapiro finished in 16:01.17, out-touching the eighth-place finisher by just 0.02. This time broke Shapiro’s old school record of 16:04.99. Estacio followed Shapiro’s record-setting performance with an 11th-place swim of 1:52.63 in the 200-yard backstroke.
Two events later came the highlight of the competition for the Jeffs, Pohorylo’s second-place finish in the 200-yard breaststroke. A time of 2:05.01 put Pohorylo in fourth place after the preliminary round. However, he came through in the finals with a speedy 2:03.02 to leave nearly all of the competition in his wake. This time not only garnered Pohorylo second place, but also broke the school record he himself had set by 0.02 seconds.
“Mike’s swim was great,” said Hopkins. “We were all really excited.”
In his final competition as a collegiate diver, Hopkins finished fifth in the three-meter event with a final score of 442.30.
The team’s ninth-place finish, with 132.5 points, capped off one of Amherst’s most successful seasons in school history. The men’s team finished the regular season undefeated before coming in second place to Williams at the NESCAC tournament. Nationals provided some vindication for this loss-the Ephs placed 17th overall, far behind the Jeffs. Amherst also finished ahead of regular-season opponents Union and Hamilton Colleges, who finished in 14th and 15th places respectively. National powerhouse Kenyon College in Ohio came away with the championship for the 24th straight season. Kenyon swimmers placed first in 16 of the 18 events to leave with a landslide victory.
The Jeffs can look back on the 2002-03 season with few regrets and a great deal of pride in outstanding individual and team performances. “We knew we were a good team coming in, said Pohorylo, “and a lot of coaches came up to our coach Nick Nichols [during the meet] and told him how amazed they were about how we were doing.”
“We had a really great season,” said Hopkins. “The whole season we were gearing up to do well, and to show that at Nationals was great.”
The top eight swimmers and divers in each event at Nationals earn All-American honors. Six Jeffs earned this distinction. Pohorylo’s performances earned him four All-American accolades.
Next season, the Jeffs return a number of talented swimmers and have every reason to expect similar levels of success in both the regular season and in the postseason.