COLLEGEVILLE, Pa. – A historic regular season behind it, the Ursinus College men's swimming team is has designs on ascending back among the elite as the Centennial Conference championships take center stage at Gettysburg College for the next four days.
The Bears finished in a three-way tie for second place at 4-2, the best dual-meet showing in program history. Ursinus has placed second at the conference meet just once, back in 2013, but a return near the top of the standings could well be in order following last year's fifth-place finish.
Defending champion Swarthmore is the favorite after an unbeaten dual-meet campaign, with the Bears lurking alongside Gettysburg and Franklin & Marshall in a strong tier of contending hopefuls.
A preview of the conference championships, broken down by each day's events:
Thursday, February 21
The first night of competition is a light one, consisting only of the finals in the 200 medley relay and the 800 free relay. Ursinus' top relays are seeded fourth and fifth, respectively, for those events.
Friday, February 22
The championships resume with prelims in the 500 free, 200 IM, and 50 free before a night session consisting of those three finals as well as the 400 medley relay.
Junior Jacob Menzer is the top seed in the 500 free and sets his sights on the top of the podium after back-to-back runner-up finishes in his first two seasons. To do it, he'll have to fend off a deep group of challengers that includes his brother Alec of Swarthmore – the reigning champion – as well as Gettysburg's Duncan Proxmire and Josh Parker.
A pair of rookies lead the way in the 50 free as Ryan Carkhuff (seeded 6th) and Daniel Mueser (10th) will each take aim at reaching the A finals on Friday night. Senior Travis Venables (13th) and junior Jared Krawetz (16th) are projected to qualify for the B final.
Saturday, February 23
Saturday's prelims include the 400 IM, 100 fly, 200 free, 100 breast, and 100 back; the finals adds the 200 free relay.
Menzer is the fourth-seeded swimmer in the 400 IM, with Callaghan (10th), freshman William Clift (12th), senior Kevin Gill (13th), freshman Matthew Seeburger (14th), and senior Devin Nielsen (15th) also in the mix. Callaghan is a two-time silver medalist in this race.
Mueser is seeded 6th in the 100 fly. Menzer is 5th in the 200 free, where Krawetz ranks 11th and junior Casey Lear 16th.
Prior took fifth in the 100 back last season and is seeded fourth this year, a legitimate medal contender.
Sunday, February 24
The championships culminate with prelims in the 200 back, 100 free, 200 breast, 200 fly, and 1650 free in addition to the 400 free relay.
Menzer is a medal challenger in the 1650 free, a race in which he won bronze a year ago and is pegged fourth for this weekend's meet. Clift is 7th in the event, which will consist of two timed finals.
Prior was just .37 seconds off the gold-medal pace in the 200 back at last year's meet and is seeded third this time around.
Carkhuff (11th) and Krawetz (13th) represent Ursinus in the 100 free, while Snyder and Luksic occupy the same seed lines in the 200 breast.
Callaghan, who placed fifth in the 200 fly a year ago, is the eighth seed in the event; senior Johnathan Myers is tabbed 11th.