By Patrick Gailey
Craig Fleming is the new division-III National Champion in the 100 freestyle.
The race capped off an individual performance in which he also finished 2nd in the 200 freestyle and 3rd in the 50 freestyle.
“It was a good way to end my senior year, I’m really happy with the way the team performed,” he said.
When Fleming hit the wall in Knoxville, TN with a time of 43.90 it was the culminating moment to a season where Fleming could do no wrong. Early on in the season he was named national swimmer of the year, he broke a numerous school and conference records, was named MIAA most-valuable swimmer, and elevated his team to the first MIAA title in eight years (the longest championship drought the team has ever seen.)
With Fleming leading the way the Hornets finished 7th at nationals, the third best the program has ever done. Last year Fleming was part of a team that finished 4th, the Kalamazoo College Swimming’s best finish at the national level. His name has been cemented among the best swimmers to ever represent the MIAA, at least according to the dozens of alumni that frequent the forums at D3swimming.com.
The group that built-up a six page discussion on where Fleming lies on the list of all time MIAA greats was the group of alumni who powered the Hornets to their MIAA championship this year with thunderous cheers in Jenison Natatorium a little over a month ago.
Wherever he lies on your list of all time greats one thing remains for sure—Fleming could not have done it all alone.
Take Brian Bazzell for example, whose co-dominance with Fleming earned them the nickname “the Bashbros” early on in their career – a name that is now known far and wide in the world of MIAA swimming.
Fleming is also leaving behind a lot of talent. Sophomore Alex Armstrong also powered Kalamazoo’s relays to all-American finishes in the 400 and 200 freestyle relays as the Hornets return several strong swimmers next year. Hopefully Armstrong can continue to contribute to the relays, as Fleming was famous for his contribution to relays because of his ability to shut the door on his opponents.
Rising star, Junior Chris Manning finished 7th, 7th, and 12th respectively in his three events at nationals, leaving him in a good position to place well next year. He recognized, though, the great loss the team will feel with Craig gone.
“It’s going to be tough without him,” Manning said, “he’ll definitely be missed.”