Continuing its ascension to the top of the Northwest Conference ladder, the Linfield swimming program made remarkable strides during Kyle Kimball’s third season as coach.
And though there is still work to do in future seasons in order to reach the top of the mountain, the Wildcats are unquestionably faster and deeper than previous years.
The men’s and women’s squads both placed fourth in the team standings at the 2017 NWC Championships. Their matching 5-2 NWC dual meet records included the first sweep of Whitworth in more than 20 years. Linfield won all head-to-head duals against its Oregon-based counterparts, Lewis & Clark, Willamette and Pacific.
At the conference meet, more Wildcats than ever advanced to the championship finals, further proof that Linfield is a program on the rise.
Speed means everything in the sport of competitive swimming, a point clearly illustrated by talented sophomores Kaedi Fry and Evette Dow, who shared the top honors as NWC Swimmers of the Year.
Fry was a repeat champion in the 200- and 400-yard individual medley races while Dow repeated as 200 and 500 freestyle champion. The two Linfield stars’ influence was felt in the relays as well.
Four individual women’s records were set and four new standards were established in the relays. Of particular note, the 800 freestyle relay became the first Linfield women’s foursome to secure an NWC championship in 20 years while also setting a new school record.
The records, Kimball said, clearly demonstrate “we are becoming stronger and stronger at the top end of our team and we’re working together as one unit.
“Our focus going forward is to help our swimmers who were just outside scoring positions in the conference move up and score,” said Kimball. “We’re working on bringing in key recruits that can help our climb in the conference.”
Freshman Alexis Murphy captured the NWC title in the 200 butterfly, finishing in a school-record time. Other top contributors for the women included Tahnijo Kakazu, who carved her name in the record book in the 50 freestyle, freshman Molli Hartzell, runner-up in the 100 butterfly, and senior Rita Cohen, who made important contributions on the freestyle relays.
“The team has come so far in three seasons,” praised Kimball. “Now we just need more hard work and dedication to achieve our primary goal of being at the top of the conference.”
Marching lockstep with the women, it was a banner season for the Linfield men. Eight individual school records and three relay records were established and the Wildcats brought home xx NWC titles.
Collectively, the Wildcats were in position to win the NWC team title heading to the third day of the conference meet, a competitive position not enjoyed by Linfield in many years.
“We battled hard, but fell off slightly on the last day,” said Kimball. “The men were only 82 points from winning the championship. Three years ago, the men were 574 points out of first place. The men have come a long way in a short amount of time. We are still hungry for more.”
Neirton Oliveira placed second in the 50 freestyle final by a scant .01 of a second, narrowly missing repeating as conference champ. The sophomore notched his name in the record book in the 50 freestyle and the 100 backstroke.
Junior Trevor Gourley was NWC runner-up in the 200 freestyle and fifth in the 50 freestyle.
In addition to winning the 200 butterfly and 200 IM, and swimming on the winning 400 medley relay team, Cutting placed second in the 100 butterfly. Brasil, a two-time defending champion, took third place in the conference in the 100 breaststroke.
The men qualified their first relay squad to a national-championship event since the NAIA era (pre-1996) and three individuals qualified for, and competed at, the NCAA Championships.
“I am extremely proud of both the women’s and men’s teams for their dedication and pride in the Linfield swimming program,” said Kimball. “I congratulate all the outgoing seniors and the whole team for a great season.”