To fully appreciate the progress that was made during the 2012-13 swimming season, it’s necessary to peel back the outer layer and look beneath the surface.
For the record, the respective placements of Linfield’s men’s and women’s squads at the Northwest Conference championship meet were identical from the previous season. The men maintained their sixth-place finish of a year ago while the women were seventh among eight teams for the third straight season.
Yet for those looking deeper, three new school records were achieved and more than 90 percent of Linfield’s athletes accomplished lifetime-best times at the season-ending NWC championships at King County Aquatics Center in Federal Way, Wash. The women’s final team score was more than 100 points higher than in 2012 and the men slotted a greater percentage of athletes in the championship and consolation finals.
“This was a program-changing season,” said Wildcats coach Gary Gutierrez. “We discovered new limits and an improved approach to training.”
Freshman Nikki Overton accounted for two school records and sophomore Kelsie Kimura added another to highlight an exciting three-day run at the championship meet. Another woman, senior Megan Sandall, posted three lifetime bests and came within 0.4 seconds of breaking a long-standing record in the 100-yard breaststroke.
Newcomer Elizabeth Fry dropped a whopping 14 seconds off her time in the 500 freestyle to snatch eighth place. She later placed ninth in the 1,650 freestyle, shaving away 40 seconds. Fellow frosh Devin Pritchard cut 55 seconds in the consolation finals to nab 16th place.
The Linfield women’s 200 freestyle relay collected 30 team points with a fourth-place showing. The foursome of Overton, Kimura, Tori Nickerson and Megan Sandall, shaved four seconds off its preliminary time. The women’s 400 medley relay, featuring Sandall, Kimura, Katie Main and Maggie May, picked up important points with a sixth-place conference finish.
On the men’s side, junior Lee Rivers reached the finals of the 200 freestyle, backstroke and 200 individual medley, all with career-best efforts. Rivers’ time in the 200 backstroke was the ninth-fastest in program history.
Senior Miles Phillips was the runner-up on the consolation finals of the 200 butterfly, moving up to No. 8 on Linfield’s all-time list. Phillips also scored team points for the Wildcats in the 400 IM.
Chris Purdy trimmed two seconds off his best time in the 100 breaststroke, coming within 1.4 seconds of a school record.
Sean Iwamasa earned a top-16 finish in the 100 and 200 butterfly in his final collegiate meet.
Rivers, Iwamasa, Purdy and Ian White combined for a fourth-place NWC championship ribbon in the 400 medley relay.
“The end of the season was magical,” said Gutierrez. “The team was committed to hard work and found out just how fast they could go when they worked hard.”
Nine seniors – Iwamasa, Phillips, Main, Sandall, Tom Gilmore, Rachel Codd, Rhiannon Ladwig, Catherine Nakamura and Maria Schwarz – completed their competitive careers. The seniors provided inspiration and motivation to the younger Wildcats.
“This was a great group,” said Gutierrez. “They were not afraid to work hard and not afraid to race.”