By Robert McKinney, Assistant Athletics Director, Communications
FEDERAL WAY, Wash. -- Niki Kates (Jr., Truckee, CA/Forest Charter School) of Willamette University earned fifth place in the championship final of the women's 200-yard individual medley to lead the Bearcats during the evening session on Friday, Feb. 8 at the 2019 Northwest Conference Swimming Championships. Ben Fritz (So., Los Gatos, CA/Leigh HS) placed sixth in the men's 500-yard freestyle, and Derek Ludwig (Jr., Moraga, CA/Campolindo HS) finished seventh in the men's 200-yard individual medley, in other championship finals action at the Weyerhaueser King County Aquatic Center. All three earned Second Team All-NWC honors.
Three other Bearcats participated in the consolation finals on Friday evening. In addition, WU competed in the men's and women's 400-yard medley relay.
Kates registered a time of 2:10.41 in the "A" final of the 200 I.M. She was just 0.43 out of fourth place. Kelli Callahan from University of Puget Sound won the 200 I.M. in 2:05.25.
Her time in the finals moved Kates into third on Willamette's all-time list in the 200 I.M., trailing only Cassie Tallman ('18), who holds the top two times at 2:10.25 in 2017 and 2:10.32 in 2015. Kates' time of 2:10.93 in the prelims on Friday morning is the sixth fastest time in school history. Prior to Friday, Tallman owned all of the top seven times, with Kates in eighth at 2:11.84.
Fritz advanced two positions after qualifying in eighth place in the 500 free. His time for sixth place in the final was 4:43.14, one-tenth of a second faster than his time in the prelims. He finished the "A" final just 0.33 out of fifth place. Ryan Grady from Whitworth University won the men's 500 freestyle in 4:36.06.
In the men's 200 I.M. final, Ludwig achieved a time of 1:58.43 to grab seventh place. He was 0.19 away from sixth place, which went to Seth Koivisto of Pacific Lutheran University in 1:58.24. Ludwig held off the eighth-place finisher, Fisher Munro of Whitman College, by 0.44.
Athletes competing in the consolation finals for Willamette on Friday were Anna Burdine (Sr., Seattle, WA/Mount Rainier HS) in the women's 500-yard freestyle, Colin Hakeman (Jr., Bellingham, WA/Sehome HS) in the men's 500-yard freestyle, and Rachel Harvill (Sr., Alamo, CA/Monte Vista HS) in the women's 50-yard freestyle.
Burdine placed second in the "B" final and 10th overall in the 500 freestyle with a time of 5:16.25. She narrowly missed winning the "B" final, as Kayli Brown of Puget Sound prevailed by just 0.81 at 5:16.14. Burdine's time was a personal best, improving by 2.74 seconds on her previous top time of 5:18.99 at last year's NWC Championships.
In the "B final of the men's 500 freestyle, Hakeman placed fifth in the race and 13th overall. His time was 4:53.31, as he touched out only 0.49 way from 12th place.
Harvill was timed at 24.98 in the "B" final of the 50-yard freestyle, as she matched exactly her time in the prelims. She was fifth in the "B" final, but missed fourth place by just 0.05 and was only 0.18 away from a two-way tie for first. Harvill took 13th place overall.
Willamette placed seventh in the women's 400-yard medley relay in 4:00.23 for the second fastest time in school history. Swimming in the race were Kates, Min Wei (Fr., Fushun, China/Cascade HS), Kiley Lin (Sr./Jr., Palo Alto, CA/Henry M. Gunn HS) and Harvill. The WU record of 3:58.13 was set in 2016 by Lin, Tallman, Malia Santos ('16) and Jamie Johnson ('18).
The Bearcats finished eighth in the men's 400-yard medley relay with a time of 3:38.03, more than six seconds under the relay team's seed time. Willamette's relay team included Ludwig, Mykah Fujiwara (Sr., Kaneohe, HI/Punahou School), Daniel Fang (So., Rancho Santa Margarita, CA/Catholic HS) and Fritz.
Whitworth topped the men's team standings with 238.5 points and a 67.5-point lead. The Pirates also led the women's team standings with 199 points, but held only a slim lead over Whitman at 187 and Linfield at 186. Willamette was seventh in the men's standings with 103 points, just 15 points out of fifth. The Bearcat women's team was seventh in the standings with 97 points. The NWC Championships will continue with preliminary heats in the morning and finals in the evening on Saturday (Feb. 9) and Sunday (Feb. 10).
Big Moment of the Day for Willamette
Niki Kates earned fifth place in the championship final
of the women's 200-yard individual medley and moved
into third place on Willamette's all-time list at 2:10.41.
Earlier on Friday, Kates reached the finals by recording
a time of 4:10.93 in the prelims. Her time from the prelims
ranks sixth all-time for the Bearcats.