Swimmers enter break near top of conference

Julian Reed

The arrival of winter break means that Whitman swimmers have a monthlong rest in their meet schedule, giving the swimmers a chance to focus on their academics and training in preparation for the more intense second half of the season.

The men’s team is 4-0, while the women’s team is 3-1. The teams’ most recent meet was in Vancouver, British Columbia at the Simon Fraser Clan Cup International. Whitman placed third in a meet featuring Division I and NAIA teams, behind Oregon State University and Simon Fraser University.

“It was really intimidating, but it’s good to have that experience,” said senior captain Nic Win of the competitive meet.

The team and coaching staff are happy with both the hot start and the atmosphere around the team.

“[The team] looks good. It looks really good. The team is really bonding as always. The freshmen are finding their place, and it’s been a solid start,” said Assistant Men’s and Women’s Swim Coach Galen Sollom-Brotherton.

The swim team practices in the pool located within Baker Ferguson Fitness Center. Photo by Nikki Antenucci.
The swim team practices in the pool located within Baker Ferguson Fitness Center. Photo by Nikki Antenucci.

The success so far comes with a grain of salt, which applies to every team in the NWC. In recent years the four Washington schools (Whitman, Whitworth, Pacific Lutheran and Puget Sound) have monopolized the top four spots in the conference, while the Oregon schools (Lewis & Clark, Pacific, Linfield and George Fox) have finished in spots 5-8. As a result, the Washington teams spend the first half of the season swimming meets with the Oregon teams in preparation for the tougher half of the season. This year the men’s side consists of four 4-0 teams and four 0-4 teams, and the women’s team is only slightly less stratified.

“It won’t really get super interesting until January,” said Sollom-Brotherton.

Next up for the Missionaries is a non-conference meet with the University of Redlands (California), followed by meets with the other three Washington schools, Pacific Lutheran, Puget Sound and Whitworth. The season ends with the Conference Championship meet at Oregon State University in Corvallis, where they will compete against the rest of the NWC.

Expectations are high for the rest of the season, especially for the men’s team. They finished second in conference last season, placing second at the NWC Championships behind Whitworth, and sending senior Karl Mering to nationals, where he won the 100-yard butterfly to become the first national champion swimmer in Whitman’s history. The men didn’t graduate anyone from last year’s team, unusual for a team so successful. They still have Mering and Win, as well as juniors Robby Dorn, Sam Starr and Loic McGiverin-Odeide, all of whom populate Whitman’s record books. This continuity, along with a strong first-year class, has helped with the strong start.

“The men’s side is definitely gunning for number one [in conference]. We’ve been number two for the last three or four years now, and so we’re ready to make that shift and I think this is the team to do it,” said Sollom-Brotherton.

The women lost four seniors to graduation last year, including Claire Collins, who qualified for nationals twice in her Whitman career. They only have one senior, Rachael Barton, who Sollom-Brotherton says puts them in a similar position to last year’s men’s team. They still expect to compete, though, and build on last year’s third-place finish at Conference. Logan Gomez, a junior transfer student from the NAIA College of Idaho, emphasized the women’s team’s determination, which she says can help compensate for its lack of experience.

Photo by Nikki Antenucci.
Photo by Nikki Antenucci.

“We’re competing with PLU and Whitworth, which both have really strong women’s teams. But the reason I chose the Whitman swim team is because there’s a level of drive in these people that I don’t see present in a lot of other teams, and I really think that we do have the potential to beat at least one of those teams at conference this year,” said Gomez.

The team will practice together through finals week, and then split up for winter break. They will meet up again in Ontario, Calif. on Jan. 7 to prepare for the season’s stretch run.

“If you ask any swimmer on campus right now, they’ll tell you they feel pretty tired, so if that effort’s being given now, I think we should expect good results,” said Win.