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Daher finishes NCAA Championships and her career with a splash

Sara Daher starts her 200-yard backstroke trial race, en route to the first sub-2:00 time of her career on March 18, 2017, her final day swimming for Bates at the NCAA Division III Championships. (d3photography.com)

SHENANDOAH, Texas -- Bates College senior Sara Daher concluded her transcendent college swimming career with possibly her finest day Saturday at the NCAA Division III Swimming & Diving Championships, breaking three team records and notching her 22nd and 23rd career All-America honors. 

The Bates women's team finished the four-day meet in 13th place out of 51 scoring teams, their fourth straight top-17 national finish. The Bates men scored 27 points to finish in 24th place out of 52 teams, the best national finish in program history. 

Daher (Marblehead, Mass.) began the day by smashing her own Bates standard in the 200-yard backstroke, breaking the 2-minute mark for the first time with a time of 1:59.62, the third fastest in a field of 38 swimmers. In Saturday's evening session, Daher's time of 2:00.25 gave her sixth place.

Daher's final swim for the Bobcats was as the leadoff leg in the 400-yard freestyle relay on Saturday night. Daher swam the first 100 yards of the race in 51.26 seconds, breaking the team 100 free record of 51.41 established by junior teammate Logan McGill (Dallas, Texas) in 2015 and propelling Bates to shattering the team record in the event with a time of 3:24.83. "Amazing last relay to finish the meet!" said head coach Peter Casares. "I couldn't be prouder of this team."

In the morning session Bates had chopped 0.65 seconds off of the team record that stood at the the start of the day, a 3:27.10 swum at the 2015 NCAA Championships by Daher, Caroline Depew, Lindsey Prelgovisk and McGill. 

Bates missed making the championship final in the event by 0.03 seconds behind Middlebury, but was outraced by MIT for ninth place in the consolation final. Bates' final time was the sixth fastest of any team but counts for 10th place, giving Daher the 23rd and final All-America honor of her career. Daher won six All-America awards over the four days of the NCAA meet, which she began already owning the Bates athletics record for All-America awards (17).

The women's 400 free relay performance also meant honorable mention All-America honors for first-year Janika Ho (Los Angeles, Calif.), first-year Monica Sears (San Anselmo, Calif.) and McGill (Dallas, Texas). McGill finishes her junior year with nine career All-America honors, while Ho and Sears end their rookie seasons with three apiece.

Junior Teddy Pender (Muscat, Oman) took 11th place in the men's 100-yard freestyle and broke his own team record in the process. Pender was 14th after trials with a time of 45.00 seconds; in the finals, his 44.72 seconds took 0.11 seconds off the Bates record he established a month ago at the NESCAC Championships, and earned him 11th place, his second individual All-America honor of the meet and the sixth All-America honor of his career.

As great as the final day of NCAAs was for the Bobcats, it was also a day of two 17th-place finishes -- otherwise known as one place out of team scoring and All-America status. Senior Dan Walpole placed 17th in the 200 breaststroke, rewriting his own team record of 2:03.59 with his trial time of 2:03.41. And first-year Hannah Johnson (Brewster, Mass.) narrowly missed the night session in the 200 backstroke, placing 17th in 2:02.17.

Other notable performances by Bates on Saturday included junior Riley Ewing's (Bedford, N.H.) 20th-place showing in the 200-yard backstroke (1:49.33). Sophomore Kristy Prelgovisk (Oakland, Maine), who placed 17th in the 100 breaststroke on Friday, took 24th place in the 200 breast (2:22.29). And the Bates men took 25th place in the 400 free relay (3:05.64).