Swim season ends strong with two second place conference finishes, four NCAA bound athletes


Photo by Natalie Mutter

After finishing the 2015 season strongly with a second place finish in the conference for the women and a conference championship for the men, expectations were fairly high going into the 2015-16 season for Whitman Swimming. Combined, the teams also lost only four seniors.

During the regular season the men did very well, only losing once to Whitworth in conference head-to-head meets. The women’s side had a tougher regular season, losing four conference meets before the Northwest Conference Championships. With these regular season records, the men’s team entered the conference meet in second place while the women’s team went into the races in fourth.

“The season’s gone really well this year. Everyone’s geared up, ready and excited for Conference Championships,” said sophomore Alex Lee.

There were similar positive reactions to the season on the women’s side despite the tough losses.

“We’ve done well as a team this season, the freshmen have really been helping us out,” said junior Tai Hallstein. “Everyone has been improving their times and the dynamic of the team is really good this year.”

Lee credits this year’s training methods to the success of both teams.

“I think this year we’ve been a lot smarter about training. There’s a lot less garbage yardage and a lot more smart swimming, especially in California for our training trip. It was a lot more of actually getting divided into groups to do training that’s very specific to what goals you want to accomplish,” he said.

There was a lot of excitement on both teams going into the conference championships.

“Obviously losing to Whitworth was really disappointing, but we’re still going to go after them at Conference,” said Lee.

Hallstein echoed similar sentiments.

“Conference Championships is always my favorite weekend because there’s so much energy and excitement,” Hallstein said.

After a solid first day at the NWC Championships, the women found themselves in third place, only six points behind Linfield while the men were holding on to a slim eight-point lead over Pacific Lutheran University for second place. There were a couple of victories for the men’s team, as junior Cole Weinstein won the 500 freestyle and the 200 freestyle relay.

On day two, the women moved up to second and the men dropped one spot to third, close behind PLU, setting up a dramatic Sunday battle for second place. The 200 freestyle was great for Whitman, as Clark Sun (’18) won the event and Sam Starr (’16) finished third. The men’s relay team also captured the 800 freestyle relay title. Another highlight was freshman Kieran Lenssen’s performance in the 100 breaststroke as he set a new school record with a time of 56.93.

The final day was highlighted by another victory for Sun, this time in the 100 freestyle. Though senior Cameo Hlebasko was unable to take first in an event, her weekend was as impressive, if not more so, than any victory. The senior racer finished second in all of her races, a remarkable accomplishment and a main reason the team was able to finish so well. The women stayed ahead of Whitworth and the men jumped ahead of PLU on Sunday, giving Whitman a pair of second-place team finishes in the NWC Championships.

“Everyone individually had wonderful performances and the team really came together. The women’s team wasn’t expecting to do nearly as well as we did, so that was awesome,” said Maddy Gyongyosi, a sophomore on the team. “Coming away from the season after conference, people are really pleased with how the team came together and fought for it.”

The season will continue for four men’s racers: Sean Terada (’17), Cole Weinstein, Noah Wechter (’19) and Kieran Lenssen. They all qualified for Nationals B cuts and must now wait for the NCAA selections to see if they will compete at Nationals in North Carolina in mid-March. Everyone else gets some well deserved rest after a very successful season and an exciting finish.