by David Rurik
With a combined 475-point margin of victory at the Northwest DIII Conference swim meet, the Whitworth University Pirates proved their dominance in both the men’s and women’s events.
“We saw almost all of the freshmen have enormous time drops,” sophomore Nathan Ranno said.
Quite a bit of young talent joined the team this season adding depth and strength.
There were several high goals set for the men’s team this season, and while not all of them were comp l e t e ly met, the team did prove its dominance over the NWC. One of those goals was to win the conference meet by more than 200 points, and they succeeded with a victory margin of 337 points.
“The depth of our team was really reflected in our victory in conference,” freshman Aaron Vaccaro said.
“We wanted to get 10 guys to nationals, we ended up getting seven to nationals,” junior Rory Buck said. “That said, we have the 10th largest team going to nationals. So while we didn’t reach our goal we still did quite well.”
The men’s team broke three of five school relay records this season, among other personal records.
“Aaron Vaccaro was responsible for two of the biggest swims of the season,” Buck said, refering specifically to Vaccaro’s performance at conference where he became the first Whitworth swimmer ever to break the 21-second mark in the 50 freestyle event.
Clearly there is something motivating these swimmers to do well. Buck spoke to the role of the coaching staff but noted that was only one of many key factors.
“It comes from inside of you and from your other teammates. We challenge each other to become better whether that’s in the weight room or in the water,” junior Austin Vierra said.
According to many on the team, it appears that the Whitworth swimming program has a bright future in store.
“We graduate two of our Nationals qualifiers, [seniors] Michael Woodward and Kalen Darling, which is going to be quite a big loss to the team,” Buck said.
But he remained optimistic about the next season, citing existing talent and the incoming freshman class next year as the two key elements to their success in the future.
“Something we really appreciated this year was the support that we received at our home meets,” Vacarro said. “It was awesome to see how many people showed up to our meets.”
The women’s team set strong goals this season as well. They were focused, driven and motivated to succeed; training the whole season as if each member of the team was headed to nationals.
“As a team we are very internally motivated, we pride ourselves in being a family and that’s where a lot of our strength and motivation comes from,” senior team captain Christina Hinkel said.
That motivation lead to a 138-point margin of victory at the NWC meet. There were many strong performances through the entire season. Freshman Kate Duvall is responsible for one such performance; winning the 200 backstroke in 2:03.79, setting an all-time NWC record.
“It was crazy to see the goals I had set for myself at the beginning of the season be completely smashed and it makes me really excited,” Duvall said. “I’m really hoping to go faster at nationals.”
Hinkel was very excited about Duvall’s performance for the whole season.
“Kate is very driven and motivated,” Hinkel said. “She’s set the bar high and she’s going to continue to push it up. I see her going a long way.”
Swimming is about much more than times and records for both teams however.
“It has taught me a lot about dedication, following your goals and how nice it is to have a group around you supporting you,” Hinkel said.
There is a focus on a close-knit family aspect for the Whitworth swimmers. Hinkel talked about coming into the program as a freshman and what it meant to have a group of friends around from the beginning. She referenced seniors Robin Lewis and Brenda Foster when talking about what the family aspect means to the team. Both Lewis and Foster took their junior years off from swimming, but made their way back to the pool for their senior years.
Whitworth swimming looks to prove itself at nationals, as the men send seven team members and Duvall prepares to represent the women.