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Crash Kills College Swimmer

The co-captain of the Kenyon College women's swim team was killed when the school van slid on an icy road into a highway guardrail and rolled several times. Ten other swimmers were injured.

The swimmers of the championship team were returning from a meet against North Carolina. They were about 30 miles from their school in Gambier when the accident happened about 6:40 p.m. Thursday.

Molly Hatcher, a 21-year-old senior from Evanston, Ill., was tossed from the van and died in the crash on U.S. 36 about 65 miles east of Columbus, the State Highway Patrol said Friday.

The van was one of four vans carrying the men's and women's swim teams of Kenyon, a small, liberal arts college.

The women's team has won 16 consecutive NCAA Division III national championships, and the men's team has won 20 straight national championships.

The college, which has about 1,575 students, is on winter break until Monday. School counselors met with members of both teams after the crash.

Team members Kate Holland, 19, of Minot, N.D., and Jessica Case, 18, of Anchorage, Alaska, were in fair condition Friday at Grant Medical Center in Columbus. Both had head injuries, and Case also has a broken collarbone, Grant spokeswoman Janet Porter said.

The other eight swimmers including one member of the men's team were treated and released at Coshocton Memorial Hospital for bumps, bruises and cuts, Kenyon spokesman Tom Stamp said.

The swimmers included Hatcher's sister, Emily, an 18-year-old freshman.

Trooper Wes Archer said Friday the van began to slide sideways on the ice and hit the guardrail. He said the van rolled at least twice before landing, part of the vehicle still on the barrier.

The patrol said unsafe speed contributed to the crash. Sgt. Gary Lewis, a patrol spokesman, said the van driver Sarah Steen, 21, of Mount Vernon, a swim team member and daughter of coach Jim Steen, told investigators she was driving just over 60 mph in a 55 mph zone.

The van was returning from a meet Wednesday at Chapel Hill, N.C., Stamp said. Both Kenyon teams lost to the Division I school.

Stamp said it is not uncommon for team members to drive school vans to meets. The school said Steen was not available to talk about the accident.

Besides the national titles, the women's team has won 23 straight state or conference titles. The men's team has won 45 of the last 46 conference titles, losing only in 1997.

Stamp credited the teams' success to Steen, the swim coach at Kenyon since 1975.

"He's a big reason that so many terrific swimmers are attracted here," Stamp said.

Hatcher's main event was the 100-yard butterfly, and she finished 12th in the nation in 1997. She also swam the individual medley, finishing fifth in the conference championship in 1998 and sixth in 1999.

"She had a very pleasing personality," said Joe Wasiluk, the school's sports information direcor.

He also pointed to her election as captain.

"That's a very high honor for her," he said.

©2000 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed

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