Big Red wins national title, ends rival’s historic 31-year streak

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Athletic contests are decided by a single point all of the time. Whether it’s a buzzer-beating 3-pointer or a walk-off home run, the anticipation and the finality is part of what endears us to sports.

That’s all well and good, but can you remember the last time a national swim meet was decided by one point?

You can’t. That’s because it had never happened — until last Saturday night. And this wasn’t just any old one-point victory. No, this win ended the longest championship streak in the entire history of college athletics!

When Denison’s Spencer Fronk out-touched Emory’s anchor to close out the 400-yard freestyle relay, the Big Red lowered the boom on Kenyon College’s streak of 31 consecutive NCAA men’s swimming & diving national titles.

Denison head coach Gregg Parini has been there for it all. In 1980, as a Kenyon sophomore, he was racking up All-America swims as a member of the Lords’ national championship squad — the one that began the streak. And, in 2001, as Denison’s coach, his Big Red women’s team ended the Kenyon Ladies’ streak of 17 straight national championships.

Splash forward to 2011, when on a fateful night in Knoxville, Tenn., Parini’s band of 15 men ended one of the most prolific streaks in all of sport.

Forget about “One Shining Moment” — during this four-day competition, the Big Red produced dozens of epic performances. Led by some seasoned veterans and boosted by a remarkably talented group of first-year athletes, DU chalked up four event championships and 47 All-American swims and dives over course of the 20-event meet.

And the timing couldn’t have been better. The Big Red returned to Granville on Sunday to find that the walls for their new natatorium had just been poured. The new pool project is part of the college’s $38.5-million Mitchell Center renovation and expansion. The Big Red are slated to be swimming in the new facility by the fall of 2012, and not coincidentally, there will be a place reserved for future NCAA trophies.

The history and traditions of this program are truly impressive, but now an even higher standard for the Denison swimming and diving program has been set.

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