Women’s Swim Finds Individual, Team Success at NESCACs

Amherst collected their top-three NESCAC spot for the third consecutive year, bringing home ten All-NESCAC awards among seven athletes. The team also returned with two new school records in the 1650-yard freestyle and the 200-yard butterfly.

This year, women’s swim took third place for the third consecutive year at NESCAC Championships, held on Feb. 10-13 at Colby in Waterville, Maine. With their 1,136 points, the Mammoths trailed Williams (1,758.5 points), and Tufts (1,809 points), who took home their program’s first NESCAC title. The team returned to Amherst with ten All-NESCAC awards, which are given to the top-three finishers in each event.

Senior Hannah Karlin ’22 flew high this weekend, winning the one-meter diving competition and placing second in the three-meter event. Her scores of 455.30 and 454.20 respectively easily passed the ‘B’ qualifying mark for nationals. And if these successes weren’t enough, for her final NESCAC performance, Karlin was awarded 2021-22 NESCAC Diver of the Year. One has to look no further than to the class of 2025 to see the legacy of hard work and success that Karlin will leave the team with; Sydney Bluestein ’25 placed second, mere points behind her senior teammate in the one-meter event, (her preliminary round score of 458.90 set a pool record) and Bluestein took fourth place in the three-meter as well. Not to be outdone, Hannah Colaizzo ’23 will join her teammates on the one-meter board at nationals with her sixth-place, ‘B’-qualifying score of 412.20.

First-year Megan Lee ’25 also had an impressive first collegiate season, winning at least one event in each of the team’s seven dual meets. This weekend, she continued her impressive performances, earning All-NESCAC awards for placing third in both the 800-yard freestyle relay, alongside Lauren Eng ’24, Jenn Adams ’25, and Jess Gordon ’23, and in the 400-yard individual medley, in which she clocked a personal best time. Lee also placed second in the 1650-yard freestyle, setting a program record with her time of 17:02.26, and making the NCAA ‘B’ cut by more than thirty seconds. Swimming 66 uninterrupted laps sounds painful for swimmers and land-goers alike, but Lee has several strategies that she employs to keep herself locked-in during the hard event; “I try to stay present and focused by replaying some of my favorite songs in my head and focusing on racing [with] the girls around me.” She also noted that the support on deck from her teammates and coaches provides motivation and encouragement, allowing her to persevere through the mile-long swim.

The quartet of Adams, Eng, Fagan, and Gordon swam to seventh place in the 400-yard freestyle relay, making the cut for NCAA ‘B’ Nationals. Gordon and Adams also qualified for nationals with their sixth and ninth place finishes in the 200-yard freestyle, with Gordon also taking fourth in the 500-yard freestyle final. Ali LaCroix ’25 took fifth place in the 200-yard breaststroke, surpassing the ‘B’ qualifying time with her finish in 2:19.44. Finishing in twelfth place in the 1650-yard freestyle, Maggie McNamara ’23 will be joining her teammates at nationals as well. In the 200-yard medley relay, LaCroix, Fagan, Grace Walker ’24, and Grace Tarantola ’23 placed sixth. The same team also placed fifth in the 400-yard medley relay.

The meet was also an exceptional one for captain Marie Fagan ’22, who left her final NESCAC Championships with a win in the 200-yard butterfly. Her time of 2:00.58 was both an Amherst record and a pool record, and earned her a fourth career All-NESCAC award. Her times in both the 200- and 100-yard butterfly made the NCAA ‘B’ cut, meaning she will be swimming both events at nationals next month. Fagan’s time in the 100-yard butterfly was also a personal best in the event, adding yet another accomplishment to her final NESCAC Championships. A swimmer to watch since her first year on the team, Fagan has been a consistent and hardworking presence on the team for the past four years and three seasons – the 2020-21 season was canceled due to Covid-19. Fagan told the Student that a big part of her training has been “rewiring my brain and body to feel good and enjoy swimming fast. I’ve really been working on my mental confidence and attitude in relation to my events.” Clearly, she has both the physical and mental aptitude required to perform consistently at such a high level, and her hard work has paid off in the form of her three consecutive record-breaking performances at NESCACs. In her first NESCAC Championship, held in 2019 at Wesleyan, Fagan placed third and set a school record in the 200-yard butterfly with a time of 2:02.87. A year later, in the 2020 Championships, she broke her own record with a second-place time of 2:02.08, before doing so a third time this weekend, breaking her 2020 record by almost two seconds.

In addition to expressing her pride towards her growth as a swimmer and her gratitude towards her supportive and motivating coaches and teammates, Fagan had glowing praise for her team’s performance, “both in competition and on the deck.” According to Fagan, while the past two years have obviously brought many challenges, both in and out of the pool, “the team not only earned third place overall, but also demonstrated incredible camaraderie.  I have never felt so much love and support on deck, and it held us together through a grueling four days of competition.” In another tribute to the talent of the diving team, assistant coach and alum Kai Robinson ’09 took the title of Diving Coach of the Year for the fourth consecutive time.  The swim team’s success must also be attributed to its loyal head coach of 24 years, Nick Nichols. Over the course of 23 seasons at Amherst, Nichols has been thrice named NCAA DIII Women’s Coach of the Year, and has coached 35 individuals and five relay teams to NCAA national championships. Select members of the women's swim and dive team will be heading to NCAA DIII championships on March 16-19 at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, along with the qualifying swimmers from the men’s team. According to Fagan, “the crew headed to nationals now has a month to build back up to some intensive training,” following their tapering process in preparation for NESCACs. “That includes a full schedule of eight in-water practices and two to three lifts per week.” The women’s team will also be cheering on their male counterparts this weekend, as they will compete at their NESCAC Championships starting on Thursday, Feb. 17, also hosted by Colby. For a complete list of the results from the women’s championship, click here.