by Andrew Forhan
The Whitworth men’s swimming team swam their way to a dominant victory at the Northwest Invitational at Linfield College in McMinnville, Ore. this past weekend.
The meet featured seven schools, and the Pirates claimed the top spot over second-place finisher Pacific Lutheran University by a margin of more than 230 points. Whitworth finished with a team score of 846.5.
“It’s basically a pretty good comparison of your squad against the other teams,” head coach Steve Schadt said. “It gives you a fuller picture of the strengths and weaknesses of the team versus a dual meet where it’s a streamline cut down version that doesn’t offer all of the events.”
Sophomore Aaron Vaccaro won three individual events to pace the Pirates. Vaccaro finished first in the 50-yard freestyle (21.74), 100-yard butterfly (50.30), and 100-yard backstroke (53.64). The sophomore tied Whitman’s Galen Sollom-Brotherton as the top individual performer at the meet.
“Aaron was phenomenal for us this weekend,” Schadt said.
Schadt highlighted Vaccaro’s 100-yard butterfly race in particular during an interview.
“He went 50.30 in the 100 butterfly which is a very strong swim this time of year,” Schadt said. “It probably puts him top four or top five in the country right now for that event.”
Vaccaro was pleased with his performance, citing focus and determination as key components to his success.
“I’ve been trying to swim some good times to get me qualified for nationals,” Vaccaro said. “This weekend I was really focused and I wanted it really badly, so I just went out and did what I had to do.”
Senior Rory Buck and freshman Wes Walton also had strong performances for Whitworth, as each swimmer earned two individual victories for the Pirates.
Buck continued his dominance, showing why he is the defending national champion in the 100-yard breastroke and 200-yard breastroke. The senior won the 100-yard breastroke in a time of 56.21, and claimed top honors in the 200-yard breastroke with a time of 2:03.80.
Walton won the 200-yard individual medley (2:00.58) and 200-yard backstroke (1:57.36).
“He’s going life-time bests already and has made an immediate impact,” Schadt said of Walton’s performance this year. “It bodes well for the future of our team and the fact that he was able to do well here [at the Northwest Invitational] says that there’s good possibilities that he can perform pretty highly at conference and maybe nationals a little bit down the road.”
The Pirate relay teams also had three victories for the Pirates. The 200-yard freestyle relay team of Vaccaro, sophomore Andrew Sumnicht, junior Nathan Ranno, and Buck finished first in a time of 1:28.30.
The 400-yard medley relay team of Walton, Buck, Vaccaro and Sumnicht were also first-place finishers in 3:31.62. The four also teamed up to win the 200-yard medley relay in 1:37:35.
“I think our medley relays have a really good shot of going to nationals,” Vaccaro said. “I think we proved that this weekend.”
The Pirates will not race again until after the Thanksgiving holiday. Whitworth will travel to Federal Way, Wash., to compete in the Husky Invitational on Dec. 2-4.