PREVIEW: College Conference of Illinois & Wisconsin

The CCIW saw a major shakeup at the top in the 2017-18 season. For the first time in 41 years, Jon Lederhouse was not at the helm of the Wheaton program, and for the first time in 20 years, the Wheaton women failed to win the league title as Carthage snapped the Thunder’s two-decade streak to sweep the conference meet alongside their men. Will Carthage carry that success into 2018-19 or will Wheaton be able to fight their way back to the top? And behind them, how will the various pieces of the puzzle shake out? All three of the league’s individual All-Americans return

Here are our projected standings with previews:

CCIW WOMEN:

  1. Carthage – While we don’t think Carthage will match their nearly 300-point victory over Wheaton, the Lady Reds are still the clear favorite heading into 2018-19. Yes, they lost two of their top three scorers in Hannah Miles and Kate Hugo (combined for 110 ind. pts., 5/3 relays). Senior Hannah Pearson leads the returners after winning titles in the 500 and 1650, and sprinter Becca Rutkowski is back, too. The Lady Reds’ recruiting class, while it doesn’t have the most top-end talent, is certainly the deepest in the league with 15 newcomers. Mackinzee Macho (2:10.65/4:52.67 IM, 1:07.7/2:29.6 BR, 5:27 500) perhaps has the most immediate scoring potential, and Elise Merucci (2:13.55/4:52.89 IM, 1:00.18/2:13.45 BA), Maddie Orgill (5:23.77/18:38.67 FR, 1:10.88/2:32 BR, 4:45 4IM), Grace Sakry (5:30 500, 2:12.85/4:45 IM, 1:00/2:16 BA, and diver Julia Cozzi should also be big contributors.
  2. Wheaton – The Thunder should close the gap on Carthage in 2019 – they didn’t lose as much as the Lady Reds and their recruiting class, while not nearly as deep as that of Carthage, has as much top-end talent. In addition, the effects of adjusting to a new HC aren’t something to be undersold, so we thing that Meghan Ayres will have the Thunder in a better place in her second year at the helm. Without a doubt, leading the way for Wheaton is 2018 CCIW Swimmer of the Year Brooke Barnes, who swept the sprint free titles at the 2018 CCIW Championships to be invited to NCAAs in all three events. Juniors Michaela Sandeno and Ashley Bowen both will look to improve from their 40-point seasons last year. Meredith Clarkson (46 pts, 2/2 relays), last year’s 400 IM champ, is the lone departure among the team’s top 10 scorers, but newcomer Priscilla Min – who would have been selected to NCAAs last year in the 200 Breast – could immediately fill that void (2:09/4:34 IM, 1:06.69/2:21.35 BR, 59.87/2:10.8 FL, 1:57.79/5:17.36 FR) and contend for league titles in multiple events. Alexandria McKeaney (24.42/53.93/2:00.6/5:22.6) should be a factor in the sprints and improve the Thunder relays, while Abigail Rutledge (57.90/2:09.35 FL, 4:45 4IM, 54.75/1:58.25/5:15/17:56 FR) and Hannah Stevens (24.86/54.06/1:59.6) both will make an impact. Northern State transfer Gentry Musgrove (4:52 4IM, 1:00.5/2:18 FL) adds even more depth.
  3. Illinois Wesleyan – Much like Wheaton, IWU didn’t lose much – Tori Tiberi (48 pts., 1 B-relay) is the lone loss from among their top 11 scorers – but their recruiting class isn’t quite as deep, which should keep them in the three-slot once again. Kelly Byrne, Alivia Hay, and seniors Lisa Cheng – an HM All-American in the 50 Free – and Claire Michael all return and scored 45 points or more at last year’s championships and combined for 14 of the Titans’ 20 A-relay slots. Ellen Gilbert is one of the top and most versatile freshmen in the conference and enters the year as the league favorite in the butterfly events (56.66/2:04.98 FL, 2:11.1/4:58.5 IM, 1:10/2:33 BR, 24.86/52.67/1:55.75/5:14.77/17:56.06) – she would have been selected to NCAAs in the 200 Fly in 2018 – while Megan Wong (24.92/53.4/1:56.8 FR, 59.06 FL, 2:12.74 IM, 1:09.7/2:32.8 BR) and Amanda Smith (2:00.5/5:25/19:08 FR, 1:01.98/2:10 BA, 5:09 IM) both should contribute.
  4. Carroll – While Carroll returns its top six swimmers, including Kaitlin Squier (49 pts., 4 A-relays) and CCIW Diver of the Meet Ally Osell (champ on both boards), the team did lose 14 total athletes from graduation or other reasons. All seven newcomers, including divers Brightyn Zuelke and Jenny Zieger, should make an impact – Madeline Nelson (2:02.5/5:21.8 FR, 2:17.5 BA, 1:10.7/2:32.9 BR, 1:00.4/2:12.9 FL, 2:15.3/4:48.5 IM) and Emily Wong (54.67/1:59.34 FR, 58.28/2:15 FL, 2:13/5:04 IM) are tops among the freshmen swimmers.
  5. Augustana – Mia Polinski and Gabrielle Ainsworth are the only two swimmers on the roster who scored more than 12 individual points at the 2018 CCIW Championships, but look for Augustana to close the gap with Carroll in 2018-19, powered by what could be the recruiting class in the CCIW. Madelynn Marunde (55.19/1:57.18/5:07/17:43, 1:08/2:26 BR, 2:13/4:39 IM), Lauren Raike (2:08/4:33 IM, 1:07.6/2:23.4 BR, 55.61/2:00/5:07 FR), and Aviana Zahara (24.3/53.1/1:57.1 FR, 56.5/2:07.1 BA) all could challenge for one or more league titles, and  sprinter Isabelle Seten (24.19/53.21) and Alicia Garcia (54.89/1:57.4/5:14 FR, 1:02.9 FL) should both impact multiple relays along with their individual events. The Vikings also add a pair of divers in Emma Gannaway and Olivia Lutz.
  6. North Central – The Cardinals graduated only a single individual point and two B-relays from the 2018 CCIW Championships, but we’re unsure of what exactly they have returning, as they still don’t have a roster online (we have some findings from their season preview and first meet results). We do know the most important thing: Katherine Canfield is back. One of just two 60-point scorers at the league meet last year alongside Wheaton’s Barnes, Canfield will look to make her last year at NCC a fast one after narrowly missing out on a trip to NCAAs last year. Marissa Hoppe and Beth Ryan, both A-finalists last year, also return, but Danai Stylianou and Amy Feltz didn’t appear in their results from the first meet. Four newcomers join the team, but none of special note.
  7. Millikin – Caroline Lodovisi was listed as a junior on last year’s roster but she doesn’t appear on the team’s 2018-19 roster on their website. That loss, combined with the graduation of Felicity Speirs and the departure of two other underclassmen, means that Millikin loses two of its top individual scorers and nine A-relay slots. The Lodovisi departure is even more unfortunate because the Big Blue brought in a solid recruiting class, highlighted by Olivia Marquardt (59.48 1FL, 1:01.84 1BA), Kathryn Cully (56.1 100FR, 1:01.8/2:12.9 BA, 1:02.8 FL), and Brigid Duesterhaus (24.97 50, 1:02.56 1BA, 1:00.4 1FL).

CCIW MEN:

  1. Wheaton – We went back and forth several times in deciding of the order of our top two on the men’s side before landing here. Wheaton faces the task of replacing significant points, as graduates Jack O’Connor (50 pts, 4 A-Relays), 2017 CCIW Swimmer of the Year Chris Dingfield (46, 2/2 Relays), Addison Coen (34, 1B), and the early departure of diver Tyler Yates (31 pts) leave the Thunder 161 individual points down from last year’s league meet. However, this is still FAR less than what Carthage lost (see below), and Wheaton’s recruiting class may be a touch better from top to bottom. Back are 2018 NCAA HM All-Americans Will Rinne (2IM) – the 2018 CCIW Swimmer of the Year – and Chris Szymczak (2BA), as well as Christian Cameron, who joined Rinne, Szymczak and O’Connor to earn HM All-America honors in three relays. Incoming diver Christopher Haase should be able to replace the points lost by Yates, and while the six incoming swimmers might not be Dingfield or O’Connor just yet, they should help to fill the voids. Ethan Kile (1:53.8/4:09 IM, 57.92/2:11.89 BR, 55.89 BA, 1:47.6 200) may be the best of the lot, and Benjamin Griffith (21.96/47.65/4:52.53 FR, 52.15/1:55 FL, 1:55.6/4:09 IM, 58.4/2:14 BR), Jonathan Schofield (22.0/48.66/1:47.8, 51.44/1:54 BA, 56.51 FL), and Gavin Patton (1:50.8/4:53/17:02, 57.9/2:02.9 BA, 56.6/2:01 FL, 4:21 4IM) are all just behind him. Ultimately, this could come down to relays – both in who wins and who successfully finishes all 10 without a DQ.
  2. Carthage – Carthage loses the most in the conference by a large margin – between the graduation of Chris Russo, Paul Devereux, Nathan Morris, Nate Rodriguez, Pat Sobkowski, and Malcolm Andrew, and the early departures of Mitch Scarski, Nicholas Wolff, and Matt Dynneson, the Red Men lost a total of 354.5 individual points and 16 relay slots (9A/7B). Several top scorers in senior Jack Wallar (54 pts.), Cooper Hawkins (54), Mitchell Mages (49), Nicholas Nevins (45.5) and Nick Seroni (41) do return, and a pair of transfers, two swimmers returning to the team, and five newcomers will help to overcome those losses. David Vowels (20.98/46.75/1:44.46, 52.5 1FL, 1:01.38 1BR) should make the biggest impact after transferring from NCAA DII Northern Michigan, while Lake Forest transfer Ethan Hare (21.95/47.69/1:44.01, 57.6/2:09.96 BR, 52.59 FL, 1:58 IM, 54.2 BA) and freshman Ben Ellstrom (51.76/1:54.2 BA, 1:55.77 IM, 1:49.46 200FR, 55.42 FL) also should reach multiple A-Finals. Ryan Morales  (53.36/1:56.75 FL, 4:53.89 500) and Charles Julius (1:01.3/2:17 BR) return after a year away from the team.
  3. Augustana – Augustana finished third behind Wheaton last year by more than 350 points and that gap could be even larger this year. The Vikings return their top three scorers in Jared Ekberg (46 pts., 4 A-Relays), Bryan Haage (41 pts., 4 A-Relays), and Brett Keefe (33 pts., 2/2 relays), but the loss of Souhail Rhafiri (31 pts., 4 B-Relays) and eight other swimmers amounts to 68 individual points and 11 relays (3A, 8B). Diver Tom Pham returns to the team after competing in 2017, but Aidan McConkey (1:50.6 200, 54.72/2:00.57 BA) is the team’s lone freshman.
  4. Illinois Wesleyan –  The Titans appear poised to finish just where they did in 2018 – squarely in the middle of the CCIW with a pretty significant distance both in front of and behind them. Distance standout Will Garcia (57 pts., 4 A-Relays) is back after winning the 500 and 1650 a year ago, as are Nick Partipilo and Luke Witteveen, both of whom reached an A-Final. Departed graduates Rob Houle, Morgan Bishop, and Jordan Miller leave a big void, as they combined for 66.5 individual points and half of IWU’s A-Relay slots. Mason McCauley appears to be the team’s top newcomer (1:45/4:47/17:32 FR, 1:02/2:17 2BR, 53.8/2:12.2 FL, 2:03/4:36 IM), and Kyle Fox (47.71/1:46.89 FR) divers Alec Marquardt and Ahmad Albzour all will help immediately.
  5. Millikin – All four of the swimmer’s on Millikin’s 2017-18 CCIW Championships roster are back, as are one other returner and five newcomers. What does that mean? Most importantly, RELAYS! At the ’18 CCIWs, the Big Blue were only able to field four A-relays and DQd one of them; if they had scored 10 relays last year, they would have finished ahead of NCC. Senior Cameron Lee, the lone Millikin swimmer to reach an A-final, is back, as are Nicholas Hoerr and Cole Jones. Jacob Williams remains on the roster – he competed early last season but didn’t compete at CCIWs – and would make an impact if he’s back and healthy. Felix Archer (22.03 50, 53.24/2:01.2 BA) should make an impact in his events while Nicholas Nemeth (1:03.3/2:23.7) should be able to score in the breaststroke events.
  6. North Central – Again, North Central’s roster isn’t online, but we do know that Nick Mielke and Ryan Lewellyan, two of the team’s top three scorers from the 2018 CCIW Championships, are back. There is some doubt about a few others, including Cameron Teel and Nicholas Slinkman, but we won’t know for sure until that roster is up. Newcomer Ferdinand Hoerstl is an international student from Germany who should be able to score at the league meet in the breaststroke events.
  7. Carroll –  Seniors Shane Murphy-Pociask and Aaron Talabac will lead the way for the Pioneers after combining to score 34 points at CCIWs last year, but there’s not much beyond that. Gone is James Kelly, who reached three A-finals and earned 35 of Carroll’s 81 individual points scored at the 2018 CCIW Championships. Along with him and fellow graduate Tristan Petrauskas, five other swimmers from 17-18 do not appear on the Pioneers’ 18-19 roster. With only two newcomers, that leaves Carroll with just seven swimmers, meaning they will be unable to field any B relays, and the team chose not to field any 800 Free Relays last year when they had enough swimmers to do so. They’ll need that 800 Free Relay this year to have hope of finishing out of the basement.

Projected Award Winners:

  • Women’s Swimmer of the Year: Brooke Barnes, Wheaton
  • Women’s Diver of the Year: Ally Osell, Carroll
  • Women’s Newcomer of the Year: Ellen Gilbert, Illinois Wesleyan
  • Men’s Swimmer of the Year: Will Rinne, Wheaton
  • Men’s Diver of the Year: Aaron San Juan, Carthage
  • Men’s Newcomer of the Year: David Vowels, Carthage

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