KNOXVILLE, TENN. 2/23/11 – Experience comes in handy when you're swimming on the big stage. Making her second straight trip to the nationals, sophomore Kaila Umbarger (Chelmsford, Mass.) competed like a veteran, racing to All-American in the 50 freestyle and swimming the anchor leg on the Owls' All-American 200 medley relay in the first day of competition at the NCAA Division III Swimming and Diving Championships at the Jones Aquatic Center on the campus of the University of Tennessee.
"It was a very good start," said Keene State Coach Jack Fabian. "It's all about getting on top of the heap in the morning preliminaries and swimming your heart out in the evening. Kaila and the 200 medley relay did that today. I couldn't be any happier with the results."
Umbarger made sure she would return to the finals, by finishing third in the 50 free preliminaries in a school record time of 23.18. "I knew I had to go full gun," she said.
Competing under the spotlight in the finals, the sophomore placed fifth with a time of 23.33. "My time wasn't as good, but I was very happy with my performance," said Umbarger who finished 11th in the event last year.
The KSC 200 medley relay team of freshman Lianna Wissmann (Orleans, Mass.), juniors Maureen O'Leary (Nashua, N.H.) and Jillian Whitaker (Gilford, N.H.) and Umbarger finished eighth with a time of 1:45.44 earning their All-American award. "Our splits were very good," said Umbarger. "We accomplished our goal."
Umbarger and Whitaker were members of last year's 200 medley relay that also swam to All-American honors.
Earlier in the day, freshman Drew Ledwith (Keene, N.H.) placed 17th in the 500 free with a time of 4:34.63. "I don't think Drew knew what to expect. He's never raced against this type of talent," said Fabian. "He will learn from the experience."
Ledwith has the top time in the 1,650 free which will take place on Saturday.
Freshman Jared Hyde (Tolland, Conn.) also had a difficult time in his NCAA debut, placing 40th in the 200 I.M. (1:55.26).
The Keene State men's 200 medley relay team of freshman Austin Harris (Essex Junction, Vt.), seniors Cody Larrimore (Trappe, Md.) and Connor Pennoyer (Norwalk, Conn.) and Hyde placed 18th with a time of 1:34.19.
After eight events, the Keene State women are in seventh place with 36 points. Emory leads the pack with 162 points.
Kenyon leads the men's field with 106 points.