Record-breaking swim season continues for select athletes

Kendra Winchester

The energy from their sweep against Whitworth to end the regular season carried both the men’s and women’s swim teams through their Northwest Conference Championship finals. The men took first place earning 697.5 points, ending Whitworth’s 12-year NWC winning streak. And the women finished second with 524 points, marking only the second time ever finishing above third in the NWC Championships.

Karl Mering '15. Photo by Tywen Kelly.

Karl Mering ’15. Photo by Tywen Kelly.

The accomplishments were truly historic. First is senior Karl Mering, who was named the NWC Men’s Swimmer of the Meet for the third year in a row. Head Swimming Coach Jenn Blomme earned Men’s Coach of the Year honors for the seventh time since starting at Whitman. Cameo Hlebasko, a junior on the women’s team, led the team in the 200 back, breaking her own school record by more than 1.5 seconds. Other honorable mentions are that of Clark Sun, Nina Dipboye, Jo Brunner, Elise Tinseth, Sam Starr and Sean Terada, who all had standout performances.

Coach Blomme was pleased with the overall result of the meet, as well as the individual performances from all her swimmers.

“So many factors go into peak performance: training, nutrition, recovery, sleep, health, race strategy, mental preparedness, your taper, etc. … To have all those things come together on one weekend is pretty amazing. Our team put the work in all season, and then this weekend they showed up in a huge way … And they didn’t shy away from a single race,” said Blomme.

With the astounding performance at the championship meet, the team will await the NCAA selections for Nationals. The number of contenders for individual events varies year to year. The only secured spot is that of Karl Mering in the 200 free.

“Individual contenders are Karl Mering (100 fly, 200 free, 200 fly), Cole Weinstein (500 free, 400 IM), Clark Sun (200 free), Drew Quan (200 breast), Sam Starr (100 back) and for the women’s side Tai Hallstein (50 free, 100 free). But we also have four relays with times that would have made it into last year’s meet: the men’s 200 free, the men’s 400 medley, the men’s 800 free and the men’s 400 free,” said Blomme.

During this period of nationals selections, the team will keep high hopes that these swimmers will be selected as contenders on March 18-21 at the CISD Natatorium in Shenandoah, Texas.

“Until then, swim and weight room practices resume, so the expectation is helping them train,” said Hlebasko.

Photo by Tywen Kelly.

Photo by Tywen Kelly.

As the hard work continues for the entire team, former National Champion Karl Mering will look for nothing but perfection not only from his team, but also from himself while on the road to nationals.

“Last season was good for me but I knew that I hadn’t had perfect races last year, so I’ve just been trying to clean things up with my swimming,” said Mering.

His coach also is excited for him to experience nationals once again.

“He can compete in any environment, but he tapers for that meet very well and loves to race. He just loves to compete. As a senior, this meet will be less a challenge or test and more a celebration of his college career,” said Blomme.

The record-breaking season, along with the remarkable performance at the NWC Championship meet, has yet to settle in for Coach Blomme. With this recipe of hard work and determination, along with the success this season has brought, Blomme can only look back with admiration for her team.

“I think as I look back on this season, it will be marked by courage –– a willingness to put yourself out there and go for it. And I also think our team really internalized what it means to be a team in a sport so characterized by individual performance,” says Blomme.

The team’s exciting atmosphere impacted the season immensely.

“Every swimmer knew their work in practice, their efforts in races and the energy they brought onto the pool deck every day was going to play out in a very real way,” said Blomme.

This hardworking resilience will carry the team to nationals, hopefully bringing home some hardware.

Left to right: Sam Starr,  Loic McGiverin-Odeide, Clark Sun, Karl Mering, Sean Tarada. These swimmers are in the running to go to nationals. Photo by Tywen Kelly.

Left to right: Sam Starr, Loic McGiverin-Odeide, Clark Sun, Karl Mering, Sean Tarada. These swimmers are in the running to go to nationals. Photo by Tywen Kelly.