The meet opened with the 400-yard medley relay. Sasser swam the opening, backstroke leg for the “A” relay to earn her first of three NCAA A-cuts, which guarantee an invitation to Nationals. Her split of 57.90 also broke the Amherst record of 58.58, set in 1998. The relay team continued with fast performances from Jill Wyrick ’05, Piper Pettersen ’07 and Becca Stein ’05. Together their 3:57.31 first-place finish made an NCAA B-cut and shattered the Natatorium record of 4:03.88. The “B” relay team of Lisa Pritchard ’08, Hilary Stockbridge ’05, Jasmina Cheung-Lau ’07 and Margaret Ramsey ’07 demonstrated the Jeffs’ quality and depth as they placed second in 4:06.47, ahead of all five Panther relays. Amherst’s “C” relay was comprised of Alexis Gaines ’07, Suzie Luft ’08, Lisa Rubinger ’07 and Gretchen Sisson ’06.
“The one-two punch of the medley relays was a really inspiring force at the beginning of the meet. [Sasser] and [Pritchard], the freshmen backstrokers, were really excited to lead it off, and once they touched the wall in first and second with incredible splits, the momentum of the meet was set and did not taper for the rest of the contest,” said senior tri-captain Michelle McCreary.
Jennifer Lewkowitz ’08, McCreary and Alexis Johnston ’05 placed second, third and fifth, respectively, in the 1000-yard freestyle. Julie Kim ’08 “dominated” the 200-yard freestyle, in the words of McCreary, followed by Ramsey in fourth and tri-captain Katie Massopust ’05 in fifth. Stein took first in the 50-yard freestyle, while tri-captain Liz Chiang ’05 finished third.
In the 200-yard individual medley, Sasser’s 2:08.58 win gave her a second A-cut and broke the pool record, which stood at 2:11.28. Pettersen, Wyrick and Stockbridge showed off Amherst’s depth, placing third, fourth and fifth, respectively.
Kate Shaw ’05 won one-meter diving, achieving her second cut for Nationals. Kristin Boyd ’05 placed fourth. In the 200-yard butterfly, Cheung-Lau finished second and Lewkowitz third. Stein made an NCAA B-cut as she won the 100-yard freestyle, followed by Chiang in third. “[Stein is] an incredible relay anchor and sprinter; she always swims as fast as she has to for a clean win, no matter who the competition is,” said Chiang.
Amherst dominated the 200-yard backstroke, sweeping the top four places. Sasser achieved yet another win, NCAA A-cut, along with pool and school records. Natalie Dyer ’07 placed second, followed closely by McCreary in third and Pritchard in fourth. “My performance was a direct result of training with this group,” said Sasser. “I have never wanted to work so hard for a team. It is exhilarating to swim a race with the whole team supporting you, to finish and see their happiness, and to know they are proud that you are wearing their suit. I am excited that we have already accomplished so much so early in the season.”
Kim took second in the 500-yard freestyle, with Massopust fourth. In three-meter diving, Shaw and Boyd were second and fourth, respectively. Pettersen and Stockbridge nabbed first and second in the 200-yard breaststroke, with Cheung-Lau in fourth.
The meet finished with the 400-yard freestyle relay, in which Amherst took second and third. Chiang, Wyrick, Kim and Ramsey were four-tenths of a second behind Middlebury’s top offering. Lewkowitz, McCreary, Dyer and Massopust successfully held off the four other Middlebury relay teams.
“Each of the freshmen really excelled under the pressure of the first big meet of the season,” said McCreary.
Chiang noted that the team had been apprehensive about graduating nine at the end of this season. “[That fear] is slowly waning since the freshmen and sophomores are such great leaders both in and out of the pool,” she said.
Middlebury was the perfect meet for Amherst to demonstrate its growing depth, as the Natatorium has more lanes than most NESCAC pools. “Our depth and raw talent caught Middlebury off guard. Middlebury put up what should have been a strong lineup, but it’s not strong enough anymore,” said Sasser.
“The team always feels fantastic after victories over Middlebury,” said Chiang. “It’s the first great showcase of how hard we’ve worked, and how talented we are.”
McCreary agreed that big wins against teams like Middlebury provide motivation for future meets. The women’s next test will come as host to Colby College on Saturday at 2 p.m.