Missionaries cap best-ever swim season at NWC Championships

Whitman's men place second, and the women third, at the meet Sunday night.

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FEDERAL WAY, Wash. - With the men taking second for the first time in school history and the women nailing down third in convincing fashion, Whitman College swimmers wrapped up their best-ever run through the Northwest Conference Championships Sunday night at the King County Aquatic Center.

Galen Sollom-Brotherton, a junior in his first season at Whitman, was named Outstanding Swimmer of the Meet on the men's side, and Whitman's Jenn Blomme was named Coach of the Year for men's swimming for the second time in three years.

Sollom-Brotherton, who obliterated the opposition in winning tonight's 1,650-yard freestyle, is the first Missionary to win three men's events at the three-day meet, and the first to take home the award as the top male swimmer.

Katie Chapman, now a junior, accomplished those same feats for the Whitman women's team a year ago at this time, when Blomme was named the top women's coach for the third time in her Whitman career.

After finishing third in each of the past two years, the Whitman men's team piled up 572 points this time around to take second by a wide margin over third-place Pacific Lutheran (500) and fourth-place Puget Sound (480).

Whitworth won the men's team title with 796 points. Rounding out the the field were Pacific (255), Linfield (231), Willamette (165) and Lewis & Clark (153).

After slipping to fourth place by a miniscule one point in each of the past two years, the Whitman women finished a strong third with 506 points. Puget Sound won the women's crown with 623 points while Whitworth was a close second with 606.

The Pacific women finished fourth with 375 points and were followed by Pacific Lutheran (327), Lewis & Clark (303), Linfield (206) and Willamette (150).

"This was an absolutely phenomenal weekend for Whitman swimming," Blomme said.

"We can celebrate 25 school records, some NCAA qualifying times, Galen's high-point award, our first conference relay victories, our highest team finishes in school history and personal-best times from all of our swimmers.

"We also saw nearly half of our swimmers honored as NWC Scholar Athletes, and we had a huge fan base of parents and alumni at the meet all weekend," she said. "We expected to have a great meet, but this exceeded our wildest expectations."

The throng of Whitman rooters was no doubt awestruck when Sollom-Brotherton turned the mile freestyle into a one-man race, churning through the 1,650 yards in 15:33.53. that knocked four seconds off an NWC record set eight years ago and earning an automatic berth at the NCAA Division III national championships.

He finished 40 seconds ahead of his nearest competitor and clipped nearly a full minute off the school record he set late last year.

Mering, Lee and Sollom-Brotherton also teamed with Shunei Asao to power Whitman to victory in the meet-concluding 400-yard freestyle relay. They dropped the school record to 3:06.60.

While Sollom-Brotherton won his third race in three days, Karl Mering picked up his second event title of the weekend in the 100-yard freestyle. Mering's winning time was 46.18 - just four one-hundredths off the school record he set in the Sunday morning preliminaries.

Mitchell Lee was not far off Mering's pace, finishing third in a career-best 47.60.

Mering, Lee and Sollom-Brotherton also teamed with Shunei Asao to power Whitman to victory in the meet-concluding 400-yard freestyle relay. They dropped the school record to 3:06.60.

The same foursome won the 200-yard freestyle relay on Friday, and it was Sollom-Brotherton, Mering, Lee and Kevin O'Leary winning the 800-yard freestyle relay on Saturday.

In tonight's 400-yard freestyle relay on the women's side, Chapman joined Helen Jenne, Ellen Banks and first-year teammate Ashley Jay to place second in 3:36.29, also a new school standard.

The Missionaries broke more than two dozen school records over the weekend, and that includes the five relay events for the men and the women.

Chapman gave the women's team its best individual performance in the Sunday finals, placing second in the 200-yard butterfly in 2:09.11. Melanie Notari was fifth in 2:15.80.

Paul Chang sliced nearly two seconds off his school record in placing second in the 200-yard breaststroke. His time was 2:06.82, just a tenth of a second off the provisional qualifying standards for nationals.

Chris Bendix finished fourth in the breaststroke event in a career-best 2:12.61. Bendix also chased Sollom-Brotherton in the 1,650-yard freestyle, placing third in 16:31.49, his career-best effort.

Claire Collins and Genay Pilarowski finished third and fourth, respectively, in the 200-yard breaststroke in 2:25.34 and 2:26.31.

In addition to their exploits in the women's relay, Jenne and Jay placed fourth in individual events.

Jenne lowered her own school record in the 100-yard freestyle to 53.34 while Jay swam a season-best 18:08.62 in the 1,650-yard freestyle. Charlotte Graham clocked a career-best 18:30.77 to finish seventh in the mile freestyle.

O'Leary added a fourth-place finish (1:56.97) in the men's 200-yard backstroke while a second Whitman freshman, Nic Win, was seventh in 1:58.54.

Also placing in the championship finals of their events were Keller Hawkins, who was sixth in the women's 200-yard backstroke in 2:12.63, and Matt Liedtke, who was eighth in the 200-yard butterfly in 2:01.24.

Several Missionaries added to the team scoring by placing in tonight's consolation finals. Jacob Gavin won his consolation heat in the 200-yard breaststroke, placing ninth overall in a career-best 2:22.25. Yohan Mahoney was 13th in 2:27.10.

Kevin Dyer, slowed by injury this season, finished 11th in the 1,650-yard freestyle in 17:42.70. Ian Williams was 15th (18:31.60) while Tyler Hurlburt was 21st (20:11.08).

Katie Tackman was 14th in the women's mile freestyle in a career-best 19:47.22. Lena Page (21st, 20:45.32) and Erin Kiskaddon (23rd, 20:55.83) also swam career-best times in the event.

Banks and Asao also had career-best times in placing 12th in the 100-yard freestyle events. Banks swam 54.83 in the women's race while Asao clocked a 48.85 on the men's side.

Matt Rowett finished 15th in the 200-yard butterfly in a career-best 2:02.89. Joey Gottlieb was 15th in the 200-yard backstroke in 2:03.90.

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