(Photo courtesy of LC Pioneers)

Swimming’s youth movement makes a big splash in the Northwest Conference

The first-year swimmers get in gear as the first half of the season wraps up for the swimming Pioneers

By PETER MELLING

After a successful series of dual meets and invitationals, the men’s and women’s swimming teams will begin their winter break. This year, the team enters in the break in a good position, with significant contributions from their first-year athletes and several great finishes in their events. How have they been able to put together their first half performance, and how will they prepare for the second part of the season?

One of the keys to the squads’ progress has been how quickly the underclassmen have become accumulated to their competition in the Northwest Conference. In the last event of the first half, the Northwest Invite in Salem, Oregon, three first-year athletes led the team in individual finishes. These swimmers, August Bergh ’19, Eleanor Gerrior ’19 and Kassie Kometani ’19, had eight top-five finishes between them, with Bergh securing second place in three events and fourth place in one, Gerrior clinching the best leg time at the 500 yard freestyle relay (24.87) and Kometani getting third place in one event and fourth place in two. This was not the first time these three led the team in placing either, as Kometani already has five wins (100 and 200 yard freestyle versus Puget Sound, 50 yard freestyle against Whitman, and the 50 and 100 yard freestyle at Whitworth), while Gerrior has two (100 yard butterfly versus Whitworth and Puget Sound) and Bergh has one (200 yard freestyle against Pacific Lutheran), along with several second-place finishes.

“I loved seeing event wins from our first-years. They’re out to a great start to their collegiate careers,” said Head Coach Chris Fantz.

These great performances by the underclassmen have brought even more competitiveness to the team overall. The Pios’ relay teams have stepped up their game as well, with the men winning the 200 yard freestyle relay against Puget Sound  (with a time of 1:32.73) and the women finishing second in the 400 yard freestyle relay versus Whitman (4:32.48) and third in the 200 yard freestyle relay at the Northwest Invite (1:42.59). These relay teams, made up of both rookies and veterans, are an excellent indicator of how the team has gelled together since the start of the season, with teammates frequently finishing within a few seconds of each other, despite their disparity in experience.

Many of the older players have also made great contributions. Zac Oser ’17 had two wins against Puget Sound (in the 50 and 100 yard freestyles with times of 22.88 and 50.77), while Libby Bissen ’16  and Lucia Brammer ’18 took second place in the 100 yard breaststroke (1:15.98) and the 400 yard individual medley (5:10.46) at the Whitworth dual meet, respectively.

“There were numerous lifetime best times and almost every swim was a season-best. Our student-athletes were without question the most enthusiastic in supporting their teammates through the whole session,” said Fantz, admiring the performance both teams put on at the Northwest Invite.

This invite, a two-day meet with 34 events and well over 100 athletes, closed out the fall season for the swimming teams. They faced competition from within the NWC and the Cascade Collegiate Conference, a National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) conference not usually encountered in the Pios’ swim meets. Out of the nine colleges present, the women’s team placed sixth in the invite, while the men’s squad finished seventh.

Now that the first half of the season is over, the swimming Pios look forward to the second half of their season, starting on Jan. 22 in a road dual meet against Linfield. This break should give the Pios plenty of time to rest themselves and reflect on what they’ve accomplished over the past two months.

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