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October 14, 2011

Swimming Looks To Continue Improvement In 2011-12

With the 2011-12 winter sports season fast approaching, the Pacific Lutheran University swim squads are gearing up for what is anticipated to be a breakout year for both the men's and women's teams.  Looking to build on successful finishes at the NWC meet, fourth place for the men and sixth for the women, the Lute swimmers have high hopes that this upward trend will continue this season. Coach Matt Sellman returns in just his second year with the Lutes and expects the mix of veteran workmanship and youthful talent to combine for a dangerous lineup heading into the season. 

In his first season with the Lutes, Sellman propelled both the men's and women's teams to higher finishes than the year before.  Sellman, a former All-America swimmer at PLU and coach of Lewis & Clark College and Mary Washington University (Virginia), helped pull the Lutes out of the conference cellar. The men moved up three spots, from seventh to fourth, at the Northwest Conference meet, with the women going from last place (eighth) to sixth. Sellman's impact on the team has been vast and obvious. But not just in the results. One of Sellman's largest goals for the team is to change the approach towards swimming and establishing a competitive culture within the squad. "Our main goal this season, besides placing high at the NWC meet, is to solidify a competitive culture that is consistent throughout the season and sets a precedent of success moving forward." If everyone on the team buys in, Sellman believes that both the men and women can improve substantially in the pool and in the conference standings. 

On the men's side, an exciting array of talent gives the Lutes a good chance of placing high in the conference. Returning for the Lutes are Jake Deines, Chase Mesford, and Rayan Carter.  Deines finished third in the 200 butterfly (1:56.87) and seventh in the 200 (1:59.51) and 400 (4:18.20) IM's at the conference meet. Mesford placed 11th in the 500 free (4:55.94), 8th in the 200 free (1:47.21), and 12th in the 100 free (49.39) at conference, while Carter finished 3rd in the 100 breast (1:00.29) and 16th in 100 free (50.65). These wiley veterans will help guide the Lutes this season. 

Adding to the lethal lineup on the men's side will be a highly skilled group of freshmen swimmers. Corban Elliot (Missoula, Mont.), Patrick Opie (Mercer Island, Wash.), and Andre Tacuyan (Mukilteo, Wash.) lead a strong contingent of young talent that could not only challenge for spots with the PLU upperclassmen, but also at the conference level. Coach Sellman believes that with the new freshmen talent and the skill of the older men, the team could challenge Whitman and UPS for second in the conference. 

On the women's side of the team, replacing key members of last year's team will be crucial to repeating the success of 2010-11. The squad loses central figures to the team, with Jessie Klauder and Casey Jackson both graduating.  However, the team does return Kina Ackerman (sixth in the 400 IM (4:48.63) and 1650 free (18:15.52) and 12th in the 200 IM (2:15.79) at the NWC meet) and Liz Althauser from 2010-11. 

Joining the women this year is a strong class of freshmen that will immediately compete for the top spots on the team.  Toni Castillo (Sunnyside, Wash. / Sunnyside), Rachel Althauser (Seattle, Wash. / Mt. Rainier), and Emma Thompson (Lake Tapps, Wash. / Sumner) are first-years that Sellman slates as being individuals who can make a direct impact on the team this year.  These freshmen, coupled with the veteran experience of some key upper-classmen, will create the perfect recipe for success in 2011-12. 

The 2011-12 men's and women's swim teams have the potential to make yet another stride up the Northwest Conference standings. Combining a strong core of returners and a youthful group filled with talent, head coach Matt Sellman looks to be growing a program to compete at a high level year in and year out. The season opens for both teams on October 14 in a dual meet against the College of Idaho.