By Robert McKinney, Assistant Athletics Director, Communications, (503) 370-6110
SALEM, Ore. -- Willamette University opened the 2018 swimming season by hosting the Northwest Conference Relays on Friday, Oct. 26 at the WU Natatorium. The meet included the Bearcats as well as teams from George Fox University, Pacific University, Pacific Lutheran University and Whitworth University.
Team scores were kept although the meet was primarily a tune-up with the teams preparing for the rest of the season.
The meet included women's relays with three swimmers each covering a 100 yards, men's relays with three swimmers each covering 100 yards, and mixed relays with two men's swimmers and two women's swimmers each going 50 or 100 yards. The meet also featured a women's 500-yard freestyle relay and a men's 500-yard freestyle relay with each swimmer completing 50 yards more than the previous swimmer (50, 100, 150, 200).
Pacific Lutheran won the women's team title with a score of 194. Whitworth was second at 176, with Willamette in third at 158. George Fox placed fourth at 150 and Pacific was fifth at 142.
The men's title went to Whitworth, as the Pirates attained a score of 194. Pacific Lutheran took second place at 174 and Willamette was third at 160. George Fox was fourth at 120 and Pacific was fifth with 86 points.
In the combined standings, Pacific Lutheran was first with 482 points. Whitworth finished second at 478, just four points behind the Lutes. Willamette was third with 412 points, while George Fox took fourth at 362 and Pacific placed fifth at 312.
Willamette took second place behind Whitworth in the men's 300-yard butterfly relay. Whitworth won in 2:44.99, with the Bearcats completing the race in 2:46.56. Swimming for the Bearcats were Derek Ludwig (Jr., Moraga, CA/Campolindo HS), Daniel Fang (So., Rancho Santa Margarita, CA/Catholic HS) and Ben Hedman (So., Davis, CA/Davis HS). Pacific Lutheran was third in 2:49.06.
The Bearcats placed third in nine events, giving Willamette a total of 10 top-three finishes out of 13 events.
In the women's 300-yard backstroke relay, the Bearcats took third place in 3:09.56, just 1.80 seconds out of second place. Pacific Lutheran won the race in 3:07.10 and Whitworth was second at 3:07.76. Swimmers on the relay team for WU were Niki Kates (Jr., Truckee, CA/Forest Charter School), Corinne Pierson (Fr., Port Townsend, WA/Port Townsend HS), and Kiley Lin (Sr./Jr., Palo Alto, CA/Henry M. Gunn HS).
Willamette was third in the men's 500-yard freestyle relay with a time of 4:30.27. The Bearcats missed third place by 3.14 seconds. WU's relay team included Jacob Hulti (Jr., Astoria, OR/Astoria HS), Mykah Fujiwara (Sr., Kaneohe, HI/Punahou School), Fang and Ben Fritz (So., Los Gatos, CA/Leigh HS). Whitworth placed first in 4:17.78. Pacific Lutheran was second at 4:27.13.
The men's 300-yard individual medley relay was another event with a third place finish for the Bearcats. Colin Hakeman (Jr., Bellingham, WA/Sehome HS), Hedman and Ludwig completed the race in 2:57.72. Whitworth grabbed first place at 2:46.00, while Pacific Lutheran was second in 2:50.35.
WU took fourth place in the women's 300-yard individual medley relay and missed third place by 0.01. The Bruins of GFU were third at 3:20.54, with Willamette touching out at nearly the same moment in 3:20.55. Both teams were about 1.5 seconds behind Whitworth, which took second place in 3:19.03. PLU won the race in 3:12.62.
The Bearcats will compete in the Northwest Conference Sprints at Linfield College in McMinnville, Oregon, on Saturday, Oct. 27. Action is set to begin at 11 a.m. (PDT).