Senior Day Swim Meet

Tristan Gavin

For four years, the seniors of Whitman’s men’s and women’s swimming teams have made the Harvey Pool a second home. Last Saturday, they climbed into the water for their last home meet ever.

Whitman swim team seniors celebrate last home meet.  Photos contributed by Conor Holton-Burke.
Whitman swim team seniors celebrate last home meet. Photos contributed by Conor Holton-Burke.

The meet versus longtime Northwest Conference powerhouse Whitworth University began with a brief ceremony honoring the seniors and announcing their favorite team memories and post-graduation plans. While the ceremony was nostalgic for senior Tyler Hurlburt, who plans to go on to attend graduate school in chemistry, after its conclusion it was strictly business for the swimmers.

“It was a short ceremony, which kept the focus on the meet itself,” said Hurlburt.

The meet served as the perfect cap to a historic season for Hurlburt and the Whitman men. The team came into the meet undefeated, but faced a Whitworth team that had a 90-meet streak and years of conference domination to defend. The meet remained close throughout 14 events and two and a half hours of fierce competition. In a nail-biting finish, Whitman ultimately edged out their opponents for the first time in Whitman history with a score of 133 to 129 to maintain their perfect record. The team will head to the Northwest Conference Championship meet on Feb. 8 where they will face Whitworth––and the other six teams in the NWC––again in a final competition.

“The scoring will be different in the championships, but we know what we have to do and it will come down to whether or not we execute that,” said Hurlburt.

Karl Mering '15 won all three of his individual events and participated in the winning relay team.
Karl Mering ’15 won all three of his individual events and participated in the winning relay team.

The men’s success came from across the board, but junior Galen Sollom-Brotherton and sophomore Karl Mering gave particularly strong performances, each winning all three of their individual events and participating in the final relay that clinched the win.

On the women’s side, Whitworth came away victorious by a margin of 158.5 to 103.5. While coming up short was disappointing, senior Helen Jenne, who holds school records in the 50 and 100 freestyle, remained optimistic going into the NWC Championship meet.

“We are such a strong team and had some really great individual races we were pleased with. I think we will come out strong for championships and some girls will continue on after,” said Jenne, referring to the NCAA National Championship meet in March, for which a few women are aiming to qualify. The women have plenty of good competitors in the conference to motivate top-notch performances.

“Our women have some close competition with Pacific Lutheran University and University of Puget Sound,” said junior butterflier Mel Notari, who took first place in the 100 fly on Saturday.

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Although dual meets like Saturday’s are team-based performances, national tournaments are individual-based. Both the men and women are likely to send select individuals with high qualifying times; the men’s team may even qualify a relay team.

“We will probably send a couple of girls, which reflects how far this program has come,” Jenne said.

Both swim teams have come full circle, even in the four years the seniors have spent together.

“Our first year we watched a senior class beat Puget Sound on Senior Day to enter the championships as the second-place team. That was unheard of. Now we beat Whitworth to go in as the top team. That is unbelievable,” said Hurlburt.

Both programs have become greatly competitive in the past several years under the coaching of Head Coach Jenn Blomme, who has been voted NWC Coach of the Year each of the last four seasons and guided her teams to new heights each year.

The whopping 14-person senior class has played a large role in the successes of the program during the last four years, and will leave a standing legacy on the school record board.

“There is some serious talent graduating this year, as well as some personalities that will be sorely missed,” said Notari.

Saturday showcased what is in store for the program, but it also gave the team a chance to celebrate members who gave four years to a program that helped shape their college experience.

“At the end of the day, most of my closest friends are on this team. I know it sounds corny, but we really are a family,” said Jenne.

While this has been the most successful season in recent memory, Jenne sees more growth to come.

“We have amazing [first-years] that did a great job all year. We dealt with a lot of injuries and adversity but I think we are stronger for it. I feel okay handing off the team to a group filled with leaders,” said Jenne.

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