Cedar Crest wins NEAC swim title
The Cedar Crest College women’s swim team left the North Eastern Athletic Conference championships a bit disappointed, but still somewhat satisfied to have finished in the top three at this year’s conference meet.
Then things changed on the way home from the meet, which was held SUNY Cobleskill in Cobleskill, NY.
Cedar Crest head coach Kaitlyn Rockwell got the results via email and looked at them during the ride back to Allentown. She noticed her team was listed as the first-place finisher by one point.
She checked with Cedar Crest Athletic Director Dr. Allen Snook and Sports Information Director LJ Smith. They contacted the conference commissioner to find out if the results were accurate.
The emailed results were correct. Cedar Crest had won the meet. But after Wells College was awarded the championship trophy at the meet, conference officials decided to name the two teams co-champs instead of taking the trophy back from Wells.
“They forgot to put in the scores from the mile (the 1650 freestyle), which our freshman Abby Mower won that event and Ember Kriner got fifth,” said Rockwell. “We needed to wait a couple days to finalize it. Getting that call that we were named co-champs was just awesome.”
Instead of calling her swimmers to tell them, Rockwell wanted to give them the good news in person and as a group.
“We wanted to surprise them,” she said. “We called them to the office and told them Dr. Snook wants to talk to them. They thought they were in trouble. It was just really cool.”
The title marks the first for a Cedar Crest program that started just seven years ago and the school’s first conference title in any sport since the women’s lacrosse team in 1997.
The Falcons had finished third at the NEAC Swimming Championships in 2019.
This year’s performance was a group effort. Cedar Crest had just one first-place individual performance and no wins in relay events. But the Falcons got great swims from everyone who entered the water at the three-day conference meet.
Mower, a freshman from Manahawkin, NJ, earned the team 42 points in individual events with two second-place finishes to go along with her win. She also swam on four relay teams that accumulated 98 points.
Whitehall graduate Rachel Alulis took second place in three events (200 individual medley, 400 IM, 200 butterfly) while also helping all four relay teams.
After a stellar freshman season, Alulis is eager to start working on being even better next season.
“She’s a very well-rounded swimmer,” said Rockwell. “I can put her anywhere in a meet and feel confident she will do great. She was part of the group that recently broke our 800 free relay team record.
“She’s been texting me ever since Covid restrictions were put in place. She wants to get back in the water. She wants to go. She wants to be that person on the team that’s going to win it for us.”
Zaria Berry, a freshman from Maplewood, NJ, swam the lead leg in those four relays while also earning 36 points individually with one second-place and two third-place finishes.
Mackenzie Inacker, a sophomore from Scotch Plains, NJ, swam on two of the relays while also earning one second-place and two third-place finishes individually.
Cassandra Riejgers, a senior from Hollis, NH, swam to three fourth-place finishes and was part of three ‘B’ relay teams that earned team points.
Whitehall graduate Nyla Boulware, a senior team captain, finished her college swimming career at the meet. She made the ‘A’ final in three events. She placed fourth in two events (100 fly, 200 fly) and sixth in another (200 IM).
Boulware, who swam just two years at Cedar Crest after focusing on academics her first two years, was part of one ‘A’ relay team that took fourth place. She also helped two ‘B’ relays score points for the team.
“She really helped bring that team dynamic together on the pool deck and off the pool deck,” said Rockwell. “She’s another one of those swimmers that you could put her in any race and feel confident that she’ll do really well. She had a couple meets during the season where she won some events.”
The Falcons had great performances from their top swimmers at the league meet, but they couldn’t have won the title without the success of the swimmers that went to ‘B’ finals.
The top six finishers in the preliminary for each event go on to ‘A’ finals and the next six compete in ‘B’ finals. The highest place a ‘B’ final swimmer (or relay team) can finish is seventh, but they still earn team points.
Cedar Crest had five seventh-place performances at the meet, including three from Brenna Desborough (Jr., Amherst, NH). Joslyn Schwieterman (Fr., Portland, ME) had one seventh place finish, along with a fifth place and an eighth place.
Kriner (Fr., Lancaster, PA) had the other seventh-place finish to go along with two ‘A’ final places (one fifth and one sixth). Kriner was also part of a second-place relay team and one ‘B’ relay team.
Some other point scorers for the Falcons at the NEAC meet were junior Alexandra Arabio (Egg Harbor, NJ), who made three ‘B’ finals, including an eighth-place finish in one event; junior Katherine Naples (Eau Claire, WI), who swam in a pair of ‘B’ finals and one ‘B’ relay; senior Dominque Player (Baltimore, MD), who made it to three ‘B’ finals and was on one ‘B’ relay; sophomore Chelsea Tito (Wilmington, DE), who swam in two ‘B’ finals; and freshman Alani Gonzalez (Carpinteria, CA), who swam in one ‘B’ final.
Other members of the team who did not make finals include freshmen Audra Bratis (Doylestown, PA) and Sasha Singh (Breinigsville, PA).
Singh, a Parkland High School graduate who played at No. 2 doubles on the Cedar Crest College tennis team last season, swam in preliminaries for three events and had a successful meet despite missing out on finals.
“She didn’t make it back for finals, but she did really well throughout the meet and she dropped time,” said Rockwell. “The conference we’re in and the races I put her in, they’re pretty competitive. There’s always next year.”
With just three graduates from this year’s team, Cedar Crest will be looking for continued success in years to come. The team will move into the Atlantic East Conference next season, where they will face more teams from Pennsylvania, such as Cabrini, Marywood and Immaculata, and won’t have to spend as much time traveling to meets.
The AEC competition could be a bit stronger than it had been in the NEAC. But Rockwell knows her team is ready to make that leap.
“We’re excited to see how we do,” she said. “These teams are fast and I’m hoping we compete really well with them. I think the girls are ready to build this program up. It’s such a young program. Being able to win a championship within the seventh season is awesome. You don’t really see that a lot.”