National spotlight awaits local college swimmers

Connecticut College's Sam Gill will compete in three events - the 100-yard backstroke, 100 butterfly and 100 freestyle - in this week's NCAA Division III swimming and diving championships which start today in Shenandoah, Texas.

Sam Gill and Julia Pielock wish their Connecticut College teammates could join them at this week's NCAA Division III Swimming and Diving Championships in Shenandoah, Texas.

Perhaps more Camels will make the trip next year.

They're still thrilled to be representing their team and college.

"Being the only representative for the men at NCAAs this year is very bittersweet and there is no doubt that it would have been great to share these memories with my teammates," Gill said in a school release.

Both swimmers reached the nationals after terrific performances at the New England Small College Athletic Conference meet.

Gill, a junior, led the Camel men to their first top three finish in the conference championship by finishing first in the 100-yard backstroke, second in the 100 butterfly and third in the 100 freestyle. He'll compete in all three events at the NCAA Championships.

"Finishing right up there with some of the best teams in the nation is a confidence booster looking forward, and I trust that the only direction for this program from here is up," Gill said. "That being said, it will take even more hard work in and out of the pool to take our team to the next level, not only at NESCACs but at NCAAs as well."

Gill set a school record with his swim in the 100 butterfly and was one of five swimmers to automatically qualify in that event. This is Gill's second straight trip to the NCAA Championships.

The national competition begins today and takes place at the Conroe Natatorium, an Olympic training facility in Shenandoah.

Pielock, a junior from Deerfield, Mass., also had a memorable NESCAC Championship, winning the 50 and 100 freestyle races. She was the only Camel to win an individual event.

"It felt like my hard work finally paid off," Pielock said. "The past few years my times have plateaued in the 50 freestyle (my favorite event), so it not only felt great to win but also to drop a lot of time."

A transfer from the University of Richmond, Pielock comes from a swimming family. Her older brother, Chris, races for the men's team at Conn.

"My family is very close, and so Conn was one of the first schools I thought of when thinking of transferring," Pielock said.

In the NCAA Championships, Pielock will compete in the 50, 100, and 200 freestyle races. Her first race will be today, as she swims in the 50 freestyle, her best event.

"I am hoping to swim fast enough in the morning to make it back in the top eight at night," Pielock said. "Times are all very close in the sprint events, so it is really anyone's game."

Gill's first race - 100 butterfly - is set for Thursday.

The top 16 swimmers in each event earn All-American status.

Coast Guard Academy diver Sara Cantrell will compete for the first time in the NCAA Championships.

She earned one of nine spots by finishing sixth at the NCAA Division III regional at Springfield College. On the 3-meter board, she took fifth and broke her own school record with 444.5 points and placed eighth on the 1-meter board with 406.65 points.

The Coast Guard men, meanwhile, will be represented by sophomore Christian Brindamour, who qualified in the 50 and 100 freestyles.


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