Women record best-ever finish: Rookie Sasser nabs pair of National titles

The 200-yard freestyle relay of tri-captain Liz Chiang ’05, Sasser, Lisa Pritchard ’08 and Rebecca Stein ’05 placed ninth overall and won the consolation finals in 1:37.01, while Sasser finished fifth in the 200-yard individual medley.

The smashing of College records began in the 50-yard freestyle, where Chiang sprinted to fourth place, replacing the old College record with a mark of 23.82 in the morning preliminaries. “I dropped .41 seconds in the 50 free,” said Chiang, a significant cut in such a short race, “and have wanted to break 24 seconds for as long as I can remember!”

The record-breaking preliminary races continued as the 400-yard medley relay team of Sasser, Jill Wyrick ’05, Piper Pettersen ’07 and Stein shattered the 3:53.08 College record and placed first in 3:50.43. In the finals they shaved their record even more to 3:50.28 but dropped to second behind only Williams College.

The members of the 200-yard medley relay produced two more broken records. In the morning preliminaries, Chiang, Wyrick, Pettersen and Stein broke the 1:47.17 record with their second-place 1:47.02. They swam even faster at the finals at night to finish third in 1:46.69. Chiang’s lead-off 50-yard backstroke improved her College record from 27.37 to 27.31.

Jasmina Cheung-Lau ’07 placed a very respectable 16th in the 400-yard individual medley before more Jeffs broke records. Pettersen took seventh in the 100-yard butterfly; her 57.35 of the morning bettered her own College record of 57.90. With just one event between her races, Pettersen then finished a close 10th in the 100-yard breaststroke with her 1:06.27.

After an undefeated backstroke season, Sasser won her first national title in the 100-yard backstroke with a 56.03, destroying her College and NESCAC record of 56.15. The 800-yard freestyle relay team, Margaret Ramsey ’07, Stein, Sasser and Julie Kim ’08, who won the NESCAC title, finished fifth in 7:41.78.

The final day of competition began auspiciously with Sasser winning her second National title, this one in the 200-yard backstroke, a full two seconds ahead of second place. Even this blistering pace was not good enough to eclipse her old College and NESCAC record. Both Stein and Chiang qualified for finals in the 100-yard freestyle. Stein won the consolation finals to take ninth place in 52.30, tying the College record; Chiang placed 15th. Meanwhile, Pettersen raced to 13th place in the 200-yard breaststroke. The 400-yard freestyle relay of Sasser, Chiang, Kim and Stein placed a solid 12th in 3:33.96.

Last season, Shaw courageously returned from a broken hand to win the three-meter board at NESCACs and then finish fourth at NCAAs. This season she repeated her three-meter NESCAC victory and hoped to place high at Nationals. Unfortunately she hit both hands on the diving board during the one-meter warm-ups, dislocating two fingers and fracturing two others and was in need of surgery. If a diver scratches from the one-meter competition at Nationals, she is not allowed to dive in the three-meter later in the meet, so the hurting Shaw dove. “The one-meter event was pretty miserable, because I was still really shaken up and in a lot of pain. My mind was all over the place,” she explained. Shaw pulled herself together for the three-meter, diving to second place while wearing a cast. “I was determined to prove to myself and everyone else that I was better than my one-meter performance,” she said. “Everyone there was really supportive of me, which really helped, and I ended up diving a great meet on three-meter.”

At the conclusion of competition, Emory University had won its first National Championship. Amherst was fifth, right behind Williams. NESCAC rivals Colby and Middlebury Colleges finished eighth and ninth, respectively. “This is by far the largest and most talented team Amherst has ever taken to Nationals,” said Chiang. “Every single member helped to score points, and between NESCACs and Nationals we broke a slew of College records.”

“I feel so lucky to end my swimming career with this season and, in particular, this meet,” added Chiang. “Watching Sasser dominate the backstroke competition made me realize that this team, more so than any other, has raised the bar higher,” she added.

Without a doubt, no one on the team has any complaints about the way the season ended. “I’ve had an incredible time being a part of this team, and I know I’ll never experience another group of people like this,” said Shaw. “Nationals was my final chance to be with them on a pool deck, and it was worth every second.”