Swimmers win big before Championships

Matt Tesmond

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With Conference Championships a matter of days away, the Whitman Swimming Team faced its toughest challenge yet and came through in extraordinary fashion at the final meet before the year-end championship meet.

Credit: Faith Bernstein

“People have been swimming their best in practice, and we’ve just started our taper. We’ll definitely be setting the stage for Conference,” said women’s team Captain Katie Tackman before heading up to Spokane for a double-dual meet against Whitworth University and The University of Puget Sound.

And set the stage they did, with both teams finishing in second out of the three teams. For the women’s team, it marked the first time they’ve beaten the UPS squad.

“We had an amazing meet, where everyone gave it their all. There were lots of season best times and even a lifetime best for Melanie Notari,” said Tackman. Junior Helen Jenne, one of several key juniors on the women’s team, won two races to help boost the team. “The big junior class has definitely been a turning point [for the program],” said Tackman.

On the men’s side, the three top teams in the conference squared off in a quest for aquatic supremacy. The men finished in second, beating a powerful UPS team but losing to a dominant Whitworth squad.

Chris Bendix, a senior captain and distance swimmer, was extremely impressed with the men’s squad. “It could not have gone better. Everyone was able to get up and race, which isn’t easy to do this time of year. Everyone is pretty beat up right now. To have people going lifetime bests and breaking school records right now is crazy.”

This meet was raced mid-taper, meaning the swimmers are still allowing their bodies to heal and the times posted will only get faster.

“Conference will be extraordinarily fast. Next year, there may not be a single record on the men’s record board that isn’t from 2012,” said Bendix. Assistant Coach Kevin Howard put it simply.  “We’re going to step up to the challenge and make our presence known.”

Although there were many great individual performances, much of the team was quick to aim the praise at their coach Jenn Blomme. “I have always believed in Jenn,” said junior backstroker Joey Gottlieb. “Our success is a testament to her.” Blomme has rebuilt the swim program over the last ten years, from a small non-competitive bunch into a Northwest Conference powerhouse with its sights aimed at the top spot.

The swimmers are now focused on preparing for the most important races of the season at the Conference Championships from February 10-12, which will be held at the King Co. Aquatic Center in Federal Way, Wash.

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