Senior swimmers leave legacies in, out of pool

Women’s Seniors

Tri-captain Liz Chiang, a sprint freestyler and backstroker, holds Amherst’s 50-yard backstroke record. Chiang went to Nationals as a first-year for relays, and as a junior she qualified individually in addition to swimming the backstroke legs of the NESCAC Championship-winning 200-yard medley relay and the NCAA third-place 400-yard medley relay.

“Swimming has sculpted the collegiate I am more than any other one thing over the last four years,” said Chiang. “I’m a better leader and a more humble follower because of it.”

A regular distance swimmer and occasional breaststroker, her teammates admire Alexis Johnston for her hard work and attitude. “I think I would count my greatest achievement in the pool to be NESCACs last year, when I swam a [provisional National] cut in the mile,” said Johnston of her success in the longest race in collegiate swimming. Tri-captain Katherine Massopust is a hard-working distance swimmer and a caring leader. “My greatest achievements in my seasons at Amherst have been in large part due to such incredible teammates,” she said. “My fastest swims have always been when the entire team is on the side of the pool cheering me on.”

A backstroker and distance freestyler, tri-captain Michelle McCreary has placed as high as second at NESCACs and was a part of the Nationals squad for her first two years at Amherst. “Nationals my sophomore year is one of my favorite memories. I was honored to be part of four thrilling relays, including the 400 medley that placed fourth, and the 800 free relay that came out of nowhere and nearly edged Williams for top eight,” said McCreary.

Rebecca Stein is the College record-holder in the 200-yard freestyle. Stein has also been a regular member of the Nationals team, placing in the finals on relays all three years and individually the past two. She has been a consistent and reliable relay anchor.

“[Relay anchor is] a tough position to be in, but she is the perfect person for the job. We can always count on Becca; she just doesn’t lose,” said McCreary.

Many of her teammates called breaststroker and individual medley swimmer Hilary Stockbridge an inspiration. “Hilary is such a hard worker in the pool, and her dedication and love for the sport really show through in her work ethic,” said Johnston.

The seniors proudly remembered watching Stockbridge break the College record in the 200-yard breaststroke and qualify for Nationals in their sophomore NESCACs. McCreary called the race “a testament to her unwavering practice intensity day in and day out.”

Jill Wyrick holds College records in the 50-, 100- and 200-yard breaststroke events, as well as the 100- and 200-yard individual medley. She holds the permanent conference record in the 100-yard individual medley, as the event has been retired from competition. Wyrick has been part of the Nationals team every season.

Kate Shaw and Kristin Boyd were the entire women’s diving team for the past three seasons and have frequently paired to place one-two. Although they are a small portion of the team, their contributions have been considerable and memorable.

Last year Shaw broke her hand mid-season and returned from her injury with a stunning three-meter win at NESCACs and fourth place at Nationals. “Winning NESCACs, especially with a broken hand, was a huge moment for me personally,” said Shaw. “I got to prove to myself, and everyone else, that I could overcome the physical and mental challenge of a big injury, and still be competitive with the best.”

Shaw noted that Boyd entered Amherst with limited diving experience. “Now she is among the best divers in the NESCAC, and she even beat a national champion to help us win at Williams last year,” said Shaw. “Kristin has been an amazing teammate, and I think she has improved more than anyone else on this team over four years.”

The seniors consistently listed their victories over archrival Williams among their favorite memories.

Last season’s dual-meet win was particularly memorable. “We were definitely the underdogs, and it was only once we were halfway through the meet that we realized that we had the chance to win,” said Stein.

The memories the seniors have of coming together as a team to defeat their archrival are their most cherished ones. “I have never been prouder to be a part of a team [than] I was that day,” said Massopust.

There is no doubt that the women’s swimming and diving team has proven itself to be a very special squad over the past four years. “As a class, we raised the bar as far as training intensity goes, and have consequently become more successful in meets,” said Wyrick.

Men’s Seniors

Co-captain Charles Clinton, a speedy sprint freestyler, has been a regular and dependable relay anchor throughout his Amherst career. Last season he anchored the College record-setting 200- and 400-yard medley relays and swam in the record-breaking 800-yard freestyle relay.

Co-captain Dan Gach reminisced about Clinton anchoring the 400-yard freestyle relay against Williams their sophomore year when the Jeffs upset the Ephs in Williamstown. Going into the final relay the Jeffs believed they only needed third place, but realized at the last moment they needed second to win the meet. “We ran over and screamed to them the new goal. Well, with the fear of God rightly driving our anchor, he swam an incredible leg in a time of 46.4 and instead of just beating the third-place team, [he] almost [caught] the Williams A team. It was the perfect end to an incredible meet,” said Gach.

Nick Federico has been a consistent performer in the butterfly events. As a first-year, he was voted men’s team rookie of the year. “[He has] put in a fantastic body of work for this team,” said Gach.

“Beating Williams at home [in 2004] was one of my favorite memories because it was a completely unexpected surprise and I swam some of my best times there,” said Federico.

Gach has left his mark at Amherst as a distance swimmer and an occasional backstroker. “I would have to say that my greatest achievements in the pool were probably NESCACs my freshman year,” said Gach. “However, I would like to think that my influence on this team came out of the pool. As captain this year, I have greatly enjoyed the challenges that come with leading a team.”

Elan Ghazal is a gregarious butterflier and distance swimmer. “My most memorable swimming moments at Amherst have come from our two victories over Williams in my sophomore and junior years,” he said. “Being part of those back-toback wins have made for my proudest swimming moments in college.”

As the third Porter brother to swim for Amherst, Colin has upheld a family legacy and competed in the individual medley and mid-distance freestyle. “At NESCACs [in 2002], Colin found his way onto one of the 800 freestyle relays,” said Gach. Colin swam a 1:45 on the relay, recording one of the fastest splits on the team.

Diver Jordan Bowling’s frequent victories this season helped the men’s team significantly, as have his contributions in past seasons. “Jordan taking second on both boards behind Ben Hopkins [’03] our sophomore year was as important as any other event that took place the day we beat Williams for the first time,” said Gach.

“This class has posted two undefeated dual meet seasons and one of the best records of any class,” said Ghazal. “I have enjoyed swimming with my fellow seniors and will miss the painful practices and successful seasons that I shared with them throughout our time here.”

The seniors have completed their final dual meet season, and hope for strong NESCAC and NCAA finishes to their Amherst careers.

Women’s NESCACs are this weekend at Middlebury College and men’s the following weekend at Wesleyan University.