Select men’s swimmers compete at Nationals

Kendra Winchester

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As everyone on the Whitman campus headed back home or took their two week destination vacation, five swimmers, Karl Mering, Sam Starr, Sean Terada, Clark Sun and Loic McGiverin-Ideide, made their way to Shenandoah, Texas. There, at the Conroe ISD Natatorium, they competed in the NCAA Division 3 Swimming and Diving National Championships. They were invited to compete in Whitman-earned invitational spots in all three freestyle relays –– 200-, 400- and 800-yard –– and were on the optional entry list for the 200- and 400-yard medley relays.

Karl was the only one of the five swimmers to return to nationals for a second time, so the individual goals of the four others were much different from his.

“For us, we just wanted to have fun and go with whatever we were given, and see what happened,” said Terada, a sophomore on the team.

Coach Jennifer Blomme was excited at the opportunities offered to the team in Texas.

“Going into Nationals we were so elated to have relays qualified in addition to our individual opportunities.  Getting a relay invited to the meet has been a goal of ours for several seasons and we’ve gotten so close,” said Blomme.

Bringing a relay team increased the team scoring potential, where relays are worth double the points of individual races. The team had hoped to improve their highest national finish, 17th place in 2013, which in fact they did.

The relay team including Mering, McGiverin-Odeide, Starr and Sun placed 12th overall, with a time of 1 minute, 22.5 seconds. McGiverin-Odeide led off with a 21.54-second split, followed by Starr and Sun who swam almost identical times of 20.74 and 20.75 seconds.

After the relay, Mering looked to his own individual events. The defending champion finished in 47.56 in the 100 butterfly, beating his winning time from last year by .4 seconds and taking second to the top seed. 
Fifteen minutes later, he pulled out a third-place finish in the 200 free with a time of 1:37.60. Both of his swims set new Northwest Conference and Whitman school records.

Going into his races, Mering worked to keep his mind focused on the task at hand.

“My biggest personal goal was to simply just go out and perform every race with as much intensity as I could bring to it at any given moment, and not worry about how swim one will affect swim seven,” said Mering. 

Coach Blomme was pleased, but not surprised by Mering’s efforts.

“Not only was the physicality of what he did so impressive – the sheer strength and endurance.  But the mental strength to have the confidence to pull that off, to be willing to step up on the blocks feeling tired and trust your body would be able to do what you were about to ask of it… that is something really special,” said Blomme.  

True competition and an overall team success was on the mind of Senior Karl Mering the entire race.

“I think for me the number one thing I am taking away from this is that despite the fact that I didn’t win any individuals, I was the fastest split out of the entire field in each of the relays I participated in. I have never been able to be so consistent over an entire meet, and I take a lot of pride in the fact that I was able to be the best (free) relay swimmer at this meet. I did my best in the moment, and was blessed to get a best time in all the events I swam,” said Mering. 

Next year will undoubtedly be different than this year in terms of the team dynamic, especially without the presence of senior leader Karl Mering. His legacy will forever be etched in Whitman’s history, however, with all the hard work that the team put in this year as well as the leadership that has been passed through this historic swim team. The road to Northwest Conference Championships and National Championships has been paved and will be followed for years to come.