By Robert McKinney, Assistant Athletics Director, Communications
FEDERAL WAY, Wash. -- Willamette University set a school record and placed fourth in the men's 800-yard freestyle relay, and the Bearcats set another school record in the women's 200-yard medley relay, during the opening session of the 2019 Northwest Conference Swimming Championships on the evening of Thursday, Feb. 7, at the Weyerhaueser King County Aquatic Center. Willamette was timed at 7:02.28 in the men's 800 free relay and at 1:49.24 in the women's 200 medley relay.
The Willamette men's 800-yard freestyle relay team included Ben Fritz (So., Los Gatos, CA/Leigh HS), Alexander Hougan (Jr., Olympia, WA/Olympia HS), Daniel Fang (So., Rancho Santa Margarita, CA/Catholic HS), and Derek Ludwig (Jr., Moraga, CA/Campolindo HS). Fritz registered the fastest leg for the Bearcats, finishing the first 200 yards in 1:43.51. Only five other swimmers earned faster splits. WU's overall time of 7:02.28 was 0.82 faster than the previous school record of 7:03.10 set 27 years ago in 1992 by Russ Scovel, Ryan Duus, Claude Grove and Danny James.
Willamette almost caught Lewis & Clark College for third place in the men's 800 free relay. Willamette took fourth, but ended the race only 0.23 behind the Pioneers, who placed third in 7:02.05. Whitworth University won the relay in 6:49.92 and University of Puget Sound was second at 6:55.73.
In the women's 200-yard medley relay, the Bearcats were represented by Corinne Pierson (Fr., Port Townsend, WA/Port Townsend HS), Min Wei (Fr., Fushun, China/Cascade HS), Kiley Lin (Sr./Jr., Palo Alto, CA/Henry M. Gunn HS), and Rachel Harvill (Sr., Alamo, CA/Monte Vista HS). Harvill's split on the anchor leg was timed at 24.52 seconds. Willamette finished sixth in the event.
The Bearcats' time of 1:49.24 reduced the school record by 0.11 from the previous top mark of 1:49.35, set in 2016 by Lin, Cassie Tallman ('18), Malia Santos ('16) and Michaela Zuber ('16). The school record has been broken five times since 2015 after holding steady for 18 years after being set at 1:52.42 in 1997.
For Willamette in the men's 200-yard medley relay, Ludwig, Mykah Fujiwara (Sr., Kaneohe, HI/Punahou School), Fang, and Fritz combined for a time of 1:39.73 and took sixth place. Their time was 5.34 seconds faster than their seed time.
Willamette swimmers Anna Burdine (Sr., Seattle, WA/Mount Rainier HS), Niki Kates (Jr., Truckee, CA/Forest Charter School), Jensine Rasmussen (Jr., Tacoma, WA/Stadium HS) and Harvill competed in the women's 800-yard freestyle relay and placed eighth. They registered a time of 8:08.67. Burdine was clocked at 1:59.08 on the first 200 yards of the relay, as she finished in under two minutes for the first time.
Only four of the 36 events have been completed. The team leaders after the first session were Whitworth in the men's competition with 80 points, and Whitman College and Linfield College in the women's competition with 74 points each. The Bearcats were sixth in the men's standings with 52 points and seventh in the women's standings with 48 points.
Action at the NWC Championships will resume on Friday, Feb. 8, with a session of preliminary heats starting at 10 a.m. (PST) and the finals session starting at 6 p.m.