BOSTON, Mass. - The Simmons College swimming & diving team will send the maximum 18 competitors to vie for the 2015 New England Intercollegiate Swimming & Diving Championship this weekend at host University of Rhode Island in Kingston, R.I.
The Sharks begin their quest for the New England crown on Friday, February 13 and will also compete on February 14 and 15 as well. The meet will mark the second straight year that Simmons will compete with 18 competitors.
The Sharks have steadily established themselves as one of the elite swimming & diving programs in New England over the past three years with an 11th place finish in 2012, an eighth place showing in 2013 and a third-place effort last year.
Simmons finished the dual-meet part of their schedule with a 10-2 record, including a perfect 9-0 vs. school's who will also be competing at NEISDA this year. The Sharks are very strong in relay events and boast top-five teams in every relay event this year, including a third-seed designation in the 400-yard freestyle relay, fourth-seed nods in the 200-free relay, the 400-medley relay and the 800-freestyle relay, while earning the fifth seed for the 200-medley relay. Simmons will defend its title in the 800-free relay from last year's championship meet.
"A number of our swimmers have the ability to place in the top-eight or higher for their individual events, but as a team, we are most excited about the relays," said Head Coach Mindy Williams. "We're looking forward to combining our own strengths to prove to the NEISDA that we belong at the top."
The Sharks are led by a pair of sensational sophomores, who both opened eyes at last season's New England meet. Miriam Swisher (Albuquerque, N.M.) finished second in the 50-yard freestyle, the 100-free and the 200-free last year and owns the top seed in this year's 100-free event, while being seeded 2nd in the 50-free and fifth in the 200-free. Swisher owns the school record in all three events for the Sharks, including this year's mark of 51.75 in the 100-free, which is the 11th-fastest time in the nation this season. Classmate Shylee Stewart (Eastham, Mass.) comes into the meet as the defending champ in the 100-yard breaststroke, but is seeded eighth for the event this year. Stewart could be the dark horse in her events this year as a result of being injured for two months prior to January. The second-year swimmer is fully recovered and ready to challenge for the top spot in all of her events. She is also seeded seventh in the 100-free and fourth in the 50-free. She set the school standard with her first-place time in the 100-breaststroke last year at NEISDA.
Along with Swisher and Stewart, Hannah Plourde (Westfield, Mass.) is one of seven sophomores competing at this year's championships for Simmons. She's seeded seventh in the 400-yard individual medley, which she placed fifth in last year, while earning the 11th and 12th seeds in the 200-individual medley and 200-breaststroke, respectively. She posted the best times of her career in all three events at last year's championship meet, including a 10-place showing in the 200-breaststroke.
Similar to the Sharks' impressive pair of first years from a year ago, the squad features another duo, who both look to figure prominently this season. First year Natalie Giraldi (Bedford, N.H.) is seeded among the top seven in three different events, including the 50-breaststroke that sees her locked in as the second seed after setting a Great Northeast Athletic Conference record in the event earlier this season. The rookie also recorded a new league mark in the 100-breaststroke and boasts the number three seed at NEISDA this year. Giraldi will compete in the 200-breaststroke as the seventh seed. Classmate Michaela Morris (Duxbury, Mass.) has matched Giraldi as the GNAC Rookie of the Week four times this season and is a top-10 seed in all three events that she's entered in for the NEISDA meet. The rookie has already put her mark on the Simmons' record books, establishing new standards in the 50 and 100-yard butterfly races and will be the third and fifth seed, respectively, in those events. She will also compete as the 10th seed in the 200-butterfly.
"The team has been shattering school and conference records since October, but their excitement about New Englands is leading me to believe that the best is yet to come," said Williams.
The Sharks have a number of swimmers, who will vie to crack the top 10 at the New England Championships this season. Senior Chloe Davis (Merrimack, N.H.) will be competing at NEISDA for the fourth straight year and is the ninth seed in the 100-yard individual medley after registering the second-fastest time of her career in the event vs. Babson College earlier in the season. It will be her first time racing in the event at NEISDA. She is also competing in the 200-backstroke for the fourth time (13th seed) as well as the 100-backstroke (16th seed). Fellow senior Joleigh Ferro (Pittsfield, Mass.) is making her fourth appearance at NEISDA and is the seventh seed in the 50-backstroke, thanks to a career-best effort as part of the 200-medley relay at the GNAC Championships in December. Ferro will also look to score points for the third straight year in the 50-freestyle (16th seed) in addition to competing in the 100-freestyle (16th seed) and the 100-backstroke (21st seed). Sophomores Julie Nguyen (Salem, Mass.) and Emilie Lindholm (Sterling, Mass.) both have a legitimate shot at placing among the top 10 this year. Nguyen finished 11th in the 100-individual medley with a career-best time last year and is the 11th seed this year to go with a 17th-seed designation in the 500-freestyle and 21st seed in the 200-freestyle. Lindholm has improved her time in the 1650-yard freestyle from last year's championships by six seconds and is locked in as the 11th seed, while looking to compete in the 1000-freestyle (16th seed) and the 500-freestyle (23rd).
Junior Kevyn Lee (New York City, N.Y.) leads a Simmons contingent, who could all advance from the preliminaries to the finals. Lee is a top-16 seed in all three of her events, including the 1650-freestyle, which she placed 14th in as a first year in 2013. She is the race's 14th seed this season and will look to crack the 20-minute mark for the second time in her career. Lee is also the number 14 seed in the 1000-freestyle and is seeded 15th in the 500-freestyle following her personal-best mark from December in the 20-lap race. Sophomore Sarah Price (New York, N.Y.) scored in both the 100-freestyle and the 200-freestyle last year for the Sharks and will look to put points on the board again this year. She secured the 14th seed in the 200-breaststroke after competing at the collegiate level in the event for the first time this season and will also compete as the 19th seed in the 100-freestyle and the 23rd seed in the 200-freestyle. Classmate Jordan Mattheisen (Seattle, Wash.) returns for the second straight year and will challenge for a finals spot in the 50-breaststroke as the 13th seed. She is also competing in the 200-breaststroke (20th seed) and the 500-freestyle (22nd seed). First year Lindsay Nichols (Kennebunk, Maine) makes her debut at NEISDA and comes in as the 12th seed in the 200-butterfly, while also competing in the 200-individual medley (24th seed) and the 100-butterfly (26th).
Senior Hillary Wong (Quincy, Mass.) is making her fourth trip to New Englands and is looking to turn in the second top-15 finish at the meet. She placed 14th in the 200-freestyle last year and is the 16th seed in the event this year. She's also seeded 20th in the 500-freestyle and 22nd in the 100-freestyle. Junior Alexandra Vutech (Woodstock, Vt.) added the 1650-freestyle to her competitive resume this season and comes into NEISDA as the 17th seed in the race. She is also competing in the 1000-freestyle (19th seed) and the 200-breaststroke (26th seed). Senior Kara Silva (Reading, Mass.) will also look to sneak into the top 16 in the 1650-freestyle after posting a 15th-place finish last year. She's the 18th seed this year and will also compete in the 1000-freestyle and the 200-butterfly as the 23rd seed in both events. Junior Rachel Chenard (Saco, Maine) has shown that she knows what it takes to sit among the top 16, having placed 13th in the 1650-freestyle in 2013 and 16th in the 200-individual medley last year. She owns the 19th seed in the 1650-freestyle and will also make starts in the 400-individual medley (24th seed) and 200-individual medley (26th seed). First year Emily Papp (Newtown, Conn.) will look to build on her best times this season as she competes in the 500-freestyle (24th seed), the 100-freestyle (27th seed) and the 200-freestyle (28th seed).
The Sharks' depth, along with a number of top-tier swimmers and outstanding relay units should challenge as a top-three squad for the second straight year with a shot to challenge for the title as well.