Fritz Breaks Willamette Record in Men's 1,650; Seven Bearcats Reach "A" Finals

Ben Fritz (Fr., Los Gatos, CA/Leigh HS)
Ben Fritz (Fr., Los Gatos, CA/Leigh HS)

By Robert McKinney, Assistant Athletics Director, Communications

FEDERAL WAY, Wash. -- Ben Fritz (Fr., Los Gatos, CA/Leigh HS) set a Willamette University record of 16:30.97 in the men's 1,650-yard freestyle late in the morning session of the 2018 Northwest Conference Swimming Championships on Sunday, Feb. 11. Fritz broke the old record by 9.37 seconds. The previous record of 16:40.34 was set 30 years ago by John Blatt in 1987.

Fritz registered the fastest time of the early heats in the men's 1,650 freestyle. He will have to wait until the last heat of the 1,650 is completed at the start of the evening session on Sunday to determine his overall finish. The top eight seeds will be swimming in the last heat.

Three Bearcats were among the top eight finishers in the early heats of the women's 1,650-yard freestyle. Anna Burdine (Jr., Seattle, WA/Mount Rainier HS) registered the fourth fastest time in 18:53.95. Kate Harvey (Sr., Atlantic Beach, FL/Duncan Fletcher HS) was sixth in 19:10.51 and Britt Mitchell (Fr., Logan UT/Logan HS) was eighth at 19:32.00. The final heat of the women's 1,650 will be held during Sunday's evening session.

Seven other Bearcats advanced to the "A" finals during preliminary heats on Sunday morning. Three Willamette swimmers qualified for the "B" finals during Sunday's prelims.

Three WU athletes reached the championship ("A") final in the men's 200-yard butterfly. Ben Hedman (So., Davis, CA/Davis HS) recorded the second-fastest time of the prelims at 1:54.02, and Mark Yuvienco (Sr., San Jose, CA/Bellarmine College Prep) earned the third-best time at 1:55.13.

Derek Ludwig (So., Moraga, CA/Campolindo HS) tied for eighth in the prelims fo the 200 butterfly at 1:58.01 and had to win a swim-off against Tyler Melsheimer of Whitworth University in order to qualify for the championship final. Ludwig was timed at 1:58.30 in the swim-off, while Melsheimer recorded a time of 1:59.49. The top time of the preliminary heats was 1:52.09 by Noah Cutting from Linfield College.

Cassie Tallman (Sr., Seattle, WA/Roosevelt HS) and Ashlyn Witherwax (Sr., Honolulu, HI/Punahou School) both advanced to the championship final in the women's 200-yard breaststroke. Tallman swam a time of 2:25.30 for the third-fastet time in the prelims, while Witherwax registered a time of 2:27.70 for the fifth-fastest result. Tallman's time ranks fourth on the Willamette all-time list. She is the school record holder at 2:23.16 during last year's NWC Championships.

In the women's 200-yard backstroke, Niki Kates (So., Truckee, CA/Forest Charter School) was sixth in the prelims with a career-best time of 2:08.28. The time by Kates is fourth all-time for the Bearcats. Kiley Lin (Jr./So., Palo Alto, CA/Henry M. Gunn HS) placed sixth in the prelims of the women's 200-yard butterfly. Lin's time was 2:15.71. Kates and Lin will be competing in the championship finals on Sunday.

Bearcat swimmers who advanced to the consolation ("B") finals on Sunday were Mykah Fujiwara (Jr., Kaneohe, HI/Punahou School) in the men's 200-yard breaststroke, Daniel Fang (Fr., Rancho Santa Margarita/Catholic HS) in the men's 100-yard freestyle, Jensine Rasmussen (So., Tacoma, WA/Stadium HS) in the women's 200-yard backstroke. Fujiwara's time in the men's 200 breaststroke was  a career-best 2:15.60. Fang completed the men's 100 freestyle in a personal record of 48.81 seconds. Rasmussen achieved a time of 2:16.25 in the women's 200 backstroke.

Three Bearcats just missed the consolation finals after placing 17th in the preliminary heats of their respective events. Rachel Harvill (Jr., Alamo, CA/Monte Vista HS) finished 17th in the women's 100-yard freestyle in 55.61 seconds, which was only 0.21 away from advancing. Alexander Hougan (So., Olympia, WA/Olympia HS) was 17th in the men's 200-yard backstroke in 2:06.88. Olivia Halbert (Fr., Maple Valley, WA/Tahoma HS) was 17th in the women's 200-yard butterfly in 2:20.73, just 0.58 from the final spot in the consolation final.