LANCASTER, Pa. - The 25th annual Centennial Conference women's swimming championship begins Thursday at Franklin & Marshall College's Kunkel Aquatic Center. And it could be another coronation for Ursinus.
The Bears, ranked 16th nationally, have won four consecutive titles and look to become the first team to capture five straight since Gettysburg reeled off seven in a row from 1994-2000. Swarthmore was second in the dual-meet season and is poised to challenge Ursinus, as is Gettysburg who has finished second to the Bears in each of the last two seasons.
Here is a preview:
500 Freestyle: The second-longest race of the championship looks to be settled among three swimmers. Swarthmore freshman Hannah Kloetzer (5:09.80) and soph Clare Cushing (5:12.22) are 1-3 in seed times, while Washington College junior Julia Portmann (5:10.00) is #2. Don't discount Franklin & Marshall's Kathy Hirsch (5:14.91) or Grace Pereles (5:15.08).
200 Individual Medley: Two-time defending champion Peyten Lyons looks to become the third Centennial swimmer to win this event three times, but she enters with the 10th-best time of the season (2:15.70). Swarthmore junior Scout Clark (2:11.33) and Gettysburg first-year Sydney Jaramillo (2:11.91) posted the top times, while the Garnet's Sophia Lee (2:13.10) and Maggie Eberts (2:13.77), along with Ursinus' Sydney Gundersen (2:13.70) will also contend.
50 Freestyle: Gettysburg soph Kate Crilly (24.18) looks to hold off Ursinus freshman Sophie May (24.54) and Gundersen (24.57) in the sprint. Washington College senior Jenni Clune (24.87) will also contend for the medal stand.
400 Individual Medley: Ursinus senior Olivia Tierney (4:40.59) is the favorite in this event, while Franklin & Marshall senior Kellen McDonald (4:42.95) will challenge for the gold. Don't count out Jaramillo (4:43.35) and Clark (4:43.97) , while defending champ Emily Bley of Swarthmore also returns to the field.
100 Butterfly: Ursinus junior Clara Baker looks to become just the third three-time champ in this event and enters with the season's top time (55.65). It is the ninth-fastest time in Division III this winter. She'll be pushed by teammates Meggie Leitz (56.58) and Katherine Porter (56.92), while Gettysburg senior Savannah Llewellyn (59.09) and Dickinson soph Molly Sternick (59.27) will look to prevent a Bear sweep.
200 Freestyle: Ursinus swimmers have the top two times in the event - Gundersen (1:54.58) and May (1:54.87) - and are the favorites. Crilly (1:56.33), Cushing (1:57.12) and Hirsch (1:57.18) will also contend for medals.
100 Breaststroke: Defending champ Clune (1:05.73) looks to repeat her 2017 feat. Eberts (1:07.09) and Tierney (1:07.40) are her biggest challengers, while Gettysburg's Sadie Stiles (1:08.22) or F&M's Michelle Wall (1:08.45) could surprise.
100 Backstroke: Lyons, the Conference record-holder, looks to become the fourth Centennial swimmer to win this event three times and enters with the season's top time (56.92). Llewellyn will challenge for the gold, while Franklin & Marshall junior Anna Hess (59.51) and Swarthmore first-year Hyeyun Chae (59.59) will look to get on the podium.
1650 Freestyle: Kloetzer (10:36.02) is the favorite in the mile. Portmann (10:48.39) and defending champ Olivia Lyman of Dickinson (10:49.92) will also contend for the gold.
200 Backstroke: The event features a pair of returning champs in Lyons (2:04.51), the 2016 gold medalist, and Dickinson junior Katie Schmidt, the defending champion. May (2:08.22), Hess (2:09.26) and Chae (2:09.30) are contenders as is McDaniel soph Sara Hegna (2:09.46).
100 Freestyle: Crilly (52.69) and defending champ Gundersen (52.85) will duel for the gold, while Washington College senior Katie Gorman (53.93) cannot be discounted. Hirsch (54.62), along with freshmen Katie Kurzinsky of Ursinus (54.63) and Blair Boyle of McDaniel (54.76) could surprise.
200 Breaststroke: Tierney, the 2015 and 2016 champion, has the season's top performance (2:24.69). She can become just the second swimmer to win the event three times. Clune (2:26.39) and Eberts (2:27.32) are her top competition, while Swarthmore junior Liz Staton (2:31.74), the 2017 champ, will also factor.
200 Butterfly: Leitz can become the fourth three-time champion of this event and holds the season's top time in 2:03.98. It is the 13th fastest time in Division III this winter. Baker (2:07.03) will push her, while Cushing (2:10.62), Porter (2:11.63), Jaramillo (2:11.75) and Dickinson soph Demetria Ruhl (2:11.94) will contend for medals.