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Owls set to defend NCAC Championship crown

GAMBIER, Ohio — When this season’s four-day North Coast Athletic Conference (NCAC) Championship begins on Wednesday, February 14, the Kenyon College men’s swimming and diving team will be looking to repeat as champions after claiming the program’s 25th conference title last season. 

The Owls, who are the No. 1-ranked team in the College Swimming and Diving Coaches Association of America’s (CSCAA) Top-25 dual meet poll, will start their title defense with two relay races and one diving event on the first night of competition at Denison University’s Trumbull Aquatics Center. The remaining three days will feature preliminary heats at 9:30 a.m. and final heats at 6 p.m., with the rest of the swimming events running throughout and the final diving event scheduled for Friday. 

Last year’s championship was a closely contested battle between the Owls and the Big Red, but Kenyon completed a comeback on the last day to clinch the conference crown. After narrowly trailing Denison for the first three days, Kenyon erased an 11-point three-day deficit to finish the meet with a 117-point advantage over the hosting Big Red. The victory marked Kenyon’s first men’s title since the 2020 season, and the team has won two of the last three championships after Denison compiled a streak of 11 straight prior to 2020. The programs are the only two to win NCAC titles, and since the first conference meet in 1985, Kenyon has come out on top 25 times, while Denison has won 13 titles.

Despite a roster that features 13 seniors and 25 upperclassmen, Kenyon has a balanced squad that has seen members from every class contribute this season. Five returning Owls will be looking to defend individual NCAC Championships, including seniors Daniel Brooks, Yurii Kosian, Marko Krtinic, Israel Zavaleta, and sophomore Djordje Dragojlovic. 

Brooks won the 100-yard backstroke title last season and owns the conference’s top time in the event this season. Additionally, he has posted the third-fastest time in the 50- and 100-yard freestyles. Kosian claimed 2023 titles in a pair of 200-yard races, the freestyle and the backstroke. The senior heads into this year’s championship with the NCAC’s top times in both of those events and trails only Brooks’ time in the 100 freestyle. Last season’s 100-yard butterfly champion, Krtinic, paces this season’s conference field in both the 100- and 200-yard iteration of the event. 

Zavaleta looks to continue to dominate the diving boards after sweeping the one- and three-meter events last season. The senior has been selected as the NCAC Men’s Diver of the Year each of the past two seasons, and he would become the second Kenyon diver to earn the honor three times with another award. 

Dragojlovic is also looking to build upon his conference honors after being tabbed as the NCAC Men’s Newcomer of the Year last season. The sophomore won the 2023 100-yard freestyle championship, and his times in the 50-yard freestyle, the 100 freestyle, and the 100-yard backstroke rank first, second, and third, respectively, amongst NCAC swimmers.

The Owls have three other swimmers who enter the 2024 NCAC Championship with top-seeded times. Max Nonnenmacher, a senior, leads the way in the 500-yard freestyle, senior Noah Hargrove tops the 200-yard individual medley, and junior Aleksa Dobric paces the 100-yard freestyle. 

In relay races, Kenyon teams have posted the conference’s top times in the 200-yard medley relay, the 400-yard medley relay, the 200-yard freestyle relay, and the 400-yard freestyle relay.

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