COLLEGEVILLE, Pa. – The Ursinus College men's swimming team turned the 2017 Centennial Conference Championships into its own history lesson, re-writing its record books all weekend long on the way to a third-place finish. A year later, the Bears plan to add another chapter to their recent resurgence.
Ursinus, which finished 8-3 overall and 4-2 in conference duals this season, expects to add a second consecutive top-three showing to its ledger, which would mark only the fourth in school history. Last year's meet was one for the ages, as the Bears established a dozen new school records, including all five relay benchmarks in a scintillating three-day stretch.
Defending champion Swarthmore and Gettysburg, which captured the previous six titles, are the favorites, but the Bears can now call themselves contenders and have both the star power and depth to make a run.
Previewing the four-day championship, which gets underway Thursday:
The CC added a Thursday night session for the first time in its history, putting a pair of relay races in the opening spotlight. The teams will contest the 200 medley and 800 free relays starting at 7 p.m., giving the Bears a chance to get off to a fast start.
Seeded sixth in the 200 medley relay, Ursinus is counting on a big night from the 800 free relay group, which is seeded second at 7:02.41. Gettysburg is the top seed at 6:56.03.
The second day gets going with prelims in the 500 free, 200 IM, and 50 free. Sophomore Jacob Menzer is one of the favorites in the 500 free, seeded third at 4:41.76 to trail only Gettysburg's Ogden Leyens – the defending champion in this event – and his younger brother Alec Menzer of Swarthmore. Menzer was the silver medalist at last year's championship meet.
Freshman Michael Prior gets his first taste of championship action in the 200 IM, where he is slotted sixth (1:58.46) and will battle Dickinson's Will Freeman, Gettysburg's Jack Edelson and Adam Dias, Swarthmore's Jeffrey Tse, and Washington College's Aidan Sullivan for podium position.
The night session will include the finals for each of these three events in addition to the 200 free relay, for which the Bears are seeded fourth (1:26.25) behind F&M, Swarthmore, and Gettysburg.
Menzer figures to be in the medal chase in the 400 IM, where he ranks third behind Freeman and Gettysburg's Oliver Yancey. Junior James Callaghan, seeded seventh, earned silver with a program-record 4:04.57 a year ago, and classmate Kevin Gill (11th) could also make the final.
The 200 free could be one of the most exciting races of the weekend. Menzer placed second a year ago and is seeded there again, behind defending champion Leyens and just ahead of Alec Menzer. Lear is eight, while junior Daniel Becker (13th) and sophomore Jared Krawetz (16th) are in the projected field for the B final.
Prior is seeded fourth in the 100 back and will contend with Tse, F&M's Alec Wahl and Timothy Gould, and Gettysburg's Jeff Ragatz for medals.
Ursinus is fourth in the 400 medley relay, which will join these five events in the evening session.
The championship concludes with six races on Sunday. Prior kicks it off with the 200 back, where he is the third seed behind only Ragatz and Washington's Andrew Feeley. With three-time champion Liam Fitzstevens of Swarthmore graduated, the field is wide open for Prior to become the program's first individual champion in the event.
Lear, Krawetz, and Venables are seeded 15-17 in the 100 free, while Coulter is 10th in the 200 breast.
The Bears boast three of the previous seven 200 fly champions, including Callaghan's remarkable finish to edge McNamara a year ago. It was the first time in program history that a pair of Ursinus teammates finished 1-2 in a championship event.
This time, McNamara is seeded third behind Edelson and F&M's Eric Dietrich-Peterson, while Callaghan lurks at eighth.
Menzer is the heavy favorite to capture Ursinus' first gold in the 1650 free race since Lloyd Tannenbaum in 2011. The Bears also hope to get scoring from sophomore Daniel Powell (7th), senior Christopher Barthold (9th), Gill (10th), and junior Thomas Bantley (16th).
The 400 free relay caps the weekend. Ursinus is seeded fourth.
Thursday's session gets underway at 7 p.m. All weekend sessions are 10 a.m. (prelims) and 6 p.m. (finals).