With an estimated 95 percent of his student-athletes achieving season- or career-best times at the Northwest Conference Championships, Linfield coach Gary Gutierrez considered the 2013-14 swimming season a successful one.
Though Linfield did not finish on the winning side of the ledger during any of its seven regular-season dual meets, the Wildcats nonetheless demonstrated steady improvement of their technique and racing ability as the season progressed.
“The kids got better, no question,” said Gutierrez. “That’s why they come to Linfield, to get better. As a coaching staff, we’re proud we were able to break another school record on the women’s side. Nearly everyone enjoyed great drops at the conference meet.”
Four seniors – Chris Mapp, Lee Rivers, Maggie May and Nichole Paulachak – provided stability and leadership for the younger members of the squad.
Rivers (backstroke, individual medley) and Ian White (freestyle) turned in outstanding all-around performances at the conference meet for the Linfield men.
Rivers raced to a 1:58.76 result in the men's 200 backstroke and set lifetime bests in all four individual events he competed in. He came with .45 seconds of breaking the school record in the 200 IM.
White nailed down fourth place in the men's 100-yard butterfly in season-best time (51.79). In the 100 backstroke, he secured 10th place in a season-best time of 54.41. The talented sophomore also swam the butterfly leg of the 200 medley relay and pushed himself 200 more yards on the 800 freestyle relay, the day's final event.
Freshmen Christopher Hu and Jon Williams made solid transitions from high school to college swimming and should develop into point-producing competitors in the seasons to come.
The women’s squad was led by sophomores Elizabeth Fry and Nikki Overton, of whom Gutierrez describes as “prodigious trainers who will walk through walls to get faster.”
Fry saved her fastest swim for the final race of the season, eclipsing the Linfield record in the 1,650-yard freestyle at the NWC Championships. Her clocking of 18:08.91 was just over two seconds faster than Overton, who set the once-standing record of 18:11.26 at the 2013 conference championship meet.
Fry was fifth in the 1,650 freestyle, scoring 14 team points for Linfield. Overton battled a respiratory infection throughout the meet and placed eighth in 18:26.72.
Maggie May (backstroke, individual medley), Tori Nickerson (breaststroke) and Caitlin Duffner (butterfly) also accounted for team points at the NWC Championships.
Up-and-comers Rita Cohen and Charlotte Smith showed promise during their first season on the Linfield roster.
“We continued to get strong swims from the kids who committed to their training programs,” said Gutierrez.
In the final team standings following the conference meet, Linfield's women maintained their position of seventh. The Wildcat men were eighth.