By Jenna Hansen
The Whitworth swim teams swam to enormous leads during the 2011 Northwest Conference Championships, setting new records and sending seven men and one woman to the national meet on March 23-26.
At the end of Saturday’s events, the Whitworth men’s team had won 12 of their 14 races and led second-place University of Puget Sound by more than 230 points. The women extended their lead over UPS to almost 100 points by winning seven of 14 races.
In the 200-yard freestyle relay, Friday’s closest race, the Pirates pulled off a narrow 1:26.10 – 1:26.14 victory over Whitman College. Sophomore Nathan Ranno joined freshmen Aaron Vaccaro, Matt Brody and Matt Dangleis to win the race.
Seniors Kalen Darling and Michael Woodward, junior Rory Buck and freshman Aaron Vaccaro gave the men’s 400-yard medley relay team a huge victory with a time of 3:23.89, setting a new school record and an NWC championship meet record.
Whitworth’s women swept the 500-yard freestyle, with freshman Kate Duvall winning her first career victory in 5:04.30. Senior Christine DeHaven was second with a time of 5:05.69, while sophomores Abby Pavelko and Makayla Palmer took third and fourth, respectively.
The women ended the night with an NWC record in the 400 medley relay. Duvall, sophomore Melissa Barringer, senior Ashley Lecoq and junior Jennifer Benson won in 3:55.95.
The records continued Saturday. The men completed the 400-yard individual medley with a 1-3-4-5-6 finish, led by Darling, who defended his title with a time of 4:01.54 and qualified for the NCAA Championships. Junior Austin Vierra finished third in 4:08.28, freshman Korey Kinney was fourth in 4:10.24, freshman Andrew Sumnicht was fifth in 4:12.98 and sophomore Michael Locatell took sixth in 4:16.77.
Vaccaro set another school record in the 100-yard butterfly with an NCAA provisional time of 49.84, breaking his own record of 50.01. Woodward won the 200-yard freestyle for the fourth year with a time of 1:41.21, and Buck dominated in the 100-yard breaststroke, finishing first.
The Pirate men proved their dominance in the 800-yard freestyle relay, winning by more than 11 seconds. Freshman Oliver Durand, Buck, Vierra and Woodward finished with an NCAA qualifying time of 6:50.18.
In the women’s races, Pavelko defended her title in the 400 individual medley, finishing with an NCAA provisional qualifying time of 4:34.64. Junior Kara Fisher took fourth in 4:44.73 and senior Christina Hinkel was eighth in 4:54.02.
They also finished 1-2-3 in the 200 freestyle, led by DeHaven in 1:56.38. Palmer took second with a time of 1:57.52, and senior Renae Jennings was third in 1:57.80.
The Pirate women followed the men’s example and dominated in the 800 free relay, winning by more than 10 seconds. Lecoq, DeHaven, Palmer and Benson had an NCAA provisional qualifying time of 7:45.64.
The men’s team scores through Saturday: Whitworth 632.5, Puget Sound 397, Whitman 337.5, Pacific Lutheran University 226, Pacific University 203, Lewis & Clark College 151, Linfield College 146 and Willamette University 3.
The women’s team scores through Saturday: Whitworth 544, Puget Sound 447, Whitman 310, Lewis & Clark 302, Pacific Lutheran 176, Pacific 172, Linfield 124 and Willamette 87.
After the final day of the competition, the men won with 923.5 points. The closest team was UPS with 586.5 points. The women took the title with 817 points. The closest team was UPS with 679 points. Darling was men’s swimmer of the meet with Vaccaro, Woodward and Buck tied for second.
Check out nwcsports.com for full results from the championships.