Fueled by All-Americans as well as record holders who return to the Middlebury swimming & diving programs, the teams have optimistic goals to compete at the national level, while looking to continue to ascend up the standings at the NESCAC Championship meets in 2018-19.
Under the guidance of eighth-year head coach Bob Rueppel, the women and men each posted seventh-place efforts at the NESCAC Championships last winter. Both teams participated at the NCAA Championships in Indianapolis a few weeks later, highlighted by All-American performances from both the men and women.
Lost to graduation were deep senior classes for both genders, with seven women and six men earning their respective diplomas. Despite the loss of those athletes, Rueppel is optimistic with the group of returners.
On the women's side, leading the contributors will be senior Kristin Karpowicz along with junior Frances VanderMeer. A freestyle and individual medley specialist, Karpowicz swam a leg in all three freestyle relays at the NESCAC Championships last winter, as well as on the 800 freestyle relay at the 2017 NCAA Championships and looks to be a key point scorer for the Panthers.
VanderMeer, a free and butterfly specialist, has been a part of four school relay records and set the 50-yard freestyle school mark during her career. She competed in seven events at last year's NCAA meet, highlighted by an All-American 14th-place finish in the 50 free. She will join the team in January after studying abroad during the first semester.
Sophomore Erin Kelly, a sprint freestyle and breaststroke specialist, competed at the NCAA meet as a part of the relay teams, while classmate Sarah McEachern is a distance freestyler and backstroke swimmer who each scored points last season.
On the men's side, Rueppel turns to senior captains Jack Dowling and Brendan Leech to lead the way in 2018-19.
Dowling has competed in both the butterfly and backstroke events as an individual, along with being a part of several relays over the last three years for the Panthers.
Leech will look to score points in the backstroke and freestyle events for Middlebury. A year ago, he touched the wall 10th in the 100 backstroke and 11th in the 50 backstroke during the NESCAC Championships, while also swimming in four relays that finished in the top-10 spots.
Other top swimmers returning from a year ago include junior Will Pannos, along with sophomores Kevin Santoro and Alec Wilson. Pannos is a butterfly and sprint freestyle specialist who was a member of numerous relay teams during last winter's NESCAC Championship, while competing as an individual. Santoro also swam a leg on relays and concentrates on the backstroke events, while Wilson took part in last year's meet in the distance freestyle events and swam a leg on the relay teams.
On the diving boards, junior Mike Chirico returns after earning All-NESCAC honors during each of his first two seasons, in addition to being an All-American last year on both boards. He dove to a runner-up finish during the 1-meter event at the league championships, while he was third in the 3-meter event. At the NCAA Championships, he was 13th during the 1-meter event and 15th on the 3-meter board. Chirico is abroad and will rejoin the team after the first semester.
In addition, Rueppel welcomes a total of 10 newcomers to the men's roster as well as 12 women's first-year swimmers and divers.
The Panthers will open their season on Saturday, November 17 with a road dual meet at Connecticut College at 1:00 p.m. Other notable events for the Panthers include the Middlebury Invitational on February 1-2 and the NESCAC Championships on February 15-17 (women at Wesleyan) and February 22-24 when the men will serve as the host. Middlebury will also compete at the NCAA Diving Regionals on March 1-2.