Painting a picture of prosperity and upward growth during the 2015-16 swimming season, Linfield coach Kyle Kimball said plainly: “You can’t look it any other way than totally positive.”
Confirming Kimball’s assessment were 20 new school records, five individual Northwest Conference champions, an NCAA championship-meet qualifier, and continued ascension up the ladder of the conference’s team standings.
At the NWC Championships in February, Linfield’s men placed fourth and the women earned fifth, each squad’s highest finish since 2010. In dual meets leading up to the championship meet, the women rose to 6-1 and the men went 4-3 after winless campaigns just two seasons ago.
“Riding the bus home after the NWC meet, I felt really happy with how the kids performed,” said Kimball, summing up his second season. “At the same time, I also realized how we still have a ways to go to achieve our goals.”
Crowned as NWC champions were Victor Brasil (100-yard breaststroke), Andres La Rosa (200 butterfly), Neirton Oliveira (50 freestyle), Kaedi Fry (400 individual medley) and Evette Dow (500 freestyle). Except for Brasil, all are freshmen, showing further proof of Linfield’s increase of speed and competitive fire.
Brasil qualified for the NCAA Division III Championships in Greensboro, N.C., and will represent Linfield in the 100 and 200 breaststroke events.
In addition to five NWC champions, the Wildcats benefited from important contributions by a number of unsung heroes. Freshman Trevor Gourley raced to a third-place outcome in the 50 freestyle and shaved three seconds off his best time to earn sixth in the 100 freestyle. Senior Ian White overcame personal challenges to become a reliable team leader and vital cog on the relays. Juan Vidal and Nikki Overton, both of whom trained independently while attending Linfield’s Portland campus, scored important team points. Rita Cohen set school records in the 50 freestyle and 100 butterfly, and freshman Tahnijo Kakazu was a top-eight scorer in the 200 IM.
Despite the spike in success, Kimball said the job of elevating the program back to the top of the NWC is far from finished.
“The conference as a whole continues to get better. The other schools are recruiting hard and working to improve also. We must focus on doing the things we have done the last two years and continue to identify, recruit and enroll student-athletes who are diamonds in the rough.”
With so much young talent and a burning desire to get better, the 2015-16 season is likely just a stopover on Linfield’s way to loftier accomplishments.