While spring sports teams opened their seasons, the men’s and women’s swimming and diving teams wrapped up their seasons over the first weekend of spring break at the 2016 NCAA Div. III Championships in Greensboro, N.C., which ran from March 16 to March 19. Senior tri-captain Michael Winget, senior Anthony DeBenedetto, junior diver Matt Rohrer and first-year Kingsley Bowen propelled the men’s team to 12th place at the NCAA championships, the best national finish they’ve posted since finishing 10th in 2006. They were joined by junior Amanda Gottschalk and first-year Colleen Doolan of the women’s team — which sent swimmers to the NCAA championships for the first time since 2013 — and the two earned Tufts 46th place, the team’s best result since finishing 28th in 2012.
To even be invited to the NCAAs is a significant achievement in it of itself, and the six Jumbos shined for Tufts on the national stage. For Winget and DeBenedetto, the result was a satisfying ending to their impressive careers. For Rohrer and Gottschalk, it was a continuation of three remarkable seasons and a promising sign, as the two seem poised to captain their respective teams next season. And for first-years Bowen and Doolan, who both showed serious talent in their rookie campaigns, it was a sign of great things to come.
“One personal highlight was just entering the pool facility for the first time and realizing the enormity of the situation,” Doolan said. “We were welcomed warmly by the pool volunteers and everywhere you looked the NCAA logo was present. Besides all of the swimming, that was a really memorable moment for me.”
On Wednesday, March 16, the first day of competition, Rohrer placed seventh in three-meter diving competition. His score of 479.85 was the second-best for him at an NCAA meet and earned him All-American honors as he finished in the top eight. On the women’s side, Gottschalk finished with a 2:08.55 time in the 200 individual medley on Wednesday. She placed 40th out of 53 swimmers in her first taste of NCAA Championship completion.
“It was a huge honor to qualify for NCAAs and get the opportunity to compete at such a high level against the best swimmers in all of [Div. III],” Gottschalk told the Daily in an email. “Going into the meet, I wanted to swim close to or better than the times I swam at NESCACs, and I was pleased to have accomplished that.”
On March 17, the meet entered its second day and competition heated up. Both Winget and Bowen finished in the top 10 in the 100-butterfly event and earned honorable mention All-American honors. Bowen was tenth with a 48.86 time and Winget, in his third straight trip to the NCAAs, finished in ninth place with a 48.82 time. DeBenedetto was also in action on Thursday, posting a 50.30 time in the 100-butterfly.
Gottschalk’s 4:32.51 time in the 400 individual medley was good for 21st. March 17 also saw the NCAA Championship debut of Doolan, who finished the 100-butterfly in 32nd place with a time of 57.91.
Friday, March 18 was a big day for the Jumbos as Winget, Rohrer and Bowen each finished with All-American honors. Winget continued an outstanding meet by placing fourth in the 100-backstroke final and setting a school-record time of 48.76 seconds in the process. Bowen placed eighth in the 100-backstroke with a 49.13 time. Rohrer also had a brilliant performance as he finished seventh in one-meter diving with a score of 460.90 in the final.
On the women’s side, Doolan earned an honorable mention All-American honor and garnered the first points for the Tufts women’s team by placing 12th in the 200 butterfly final with a time of 2:04.11.
On March 19, the last day of the meet, Gottschalk also earned an honorable mention All-American honor by placing 12th in the 200 breaststroke final with a time of 2:19.04. Her time landed her a school record in the event, and she broke her personal record by .01 seconds. The women’s team left the NCAAs with 10 points and a 46th place team finish.
“As a team, Colleen and I both wanted to qualify to swim in the evening [in the finals] so that we could score points and put Tufts University up on the standings,” Gottschalk said. “I think we are both proud to have earned points and represented Tufts at the national level. With a young team, I am hopeful this will be just the beginning for Tufts women’s swimming and diving at the NCAA championship, and that we will have an even larger Jumbo presence at NCAAs in the years to come.”
The men’s team also had an impressive Saturday. Bowen finished the 200-backstroke with a time of 1:47.69, fourth at the meet and tied for the best Tufts finish at NCAAs in the last 30 years. Winget also made it to the 200-backstroke final; his 1:47.98 time earned him seventh place and an additional All-American honor.
Winget left the NCAA championships as, quite simply, one of the best swimmers in Tufts NCAA history. He has three All-American finishes and three more honorable mention All-American finishes in his storied career.
“I did very well at the meet,” Winget said. “This was probably my best NCAAs over my career at Tufts; I had my highest finish ever as well as scoring in more events than I ever had. The team did really well — we got 12th place — for the number of athletes we had at the meet.”
Though Winget is graduating this May, Bowen looks primed to step into his shoes and lead Tufts in the backstroke events. In his NCAA championships debut, Bowen finished with an honorable mention All-American and two All-American honors. He is poised to break a handful of Tufts records in the upcoming three years.
“The highlights of the meet would be Kingsley, Matt and myself all making it back to finals and achieving All-American status,” Winget said. “Another highlight was the fact that Kingsley and I both made top in both the 100 and 200 backstroke, and the team has not had two individuals in the same final in a very long time.”
In the wake of one of the men’s team’s best finishes at NCAAs, the senior tri-captain both praised the team’s overall effort and expressed his optimism for Tufts’ future.
“I was really happy to end my career at this meet and I’m excited to see what the team can do next year,” Winget said.
The NCAA results cap off one of the most successful seasons in Tufts swimming and diving history, with the men’s team finishing second at the NESCAC championships — tied with the 2010 finish for best in program history — and the women’s team seeing a resurgence after failing to send any swimmers or divers to NCAAs the last two seasons. With most of the talent on both teams not graduating and staying on the roster for next season, the future looks bright for TUSD.