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PLU Men Third, Women Fourth at NWC Swimming Championships

Brian Ruggles (lane 3) and Chase Mesford (lane 5) at the start of the men's 100 freestyle final.
Brian Ruggles (lane 3) and Chase Mesford (lane 5) at the start of the men's 100 freestyle final.

FEDERAL WAY – Whitworth won its 11th consecutive men's team title, and the Whitworth women returned to the top of the victory stand as the Northwest Conference Swimming Championships came to an end after a three-day run at The Weyerhaeuser King County Aquatic Center.

Despite winning only one out of 18 events, the Whitworth men continued a tradition of team titles that was started in 2003. Whitworth scored 724.5, followed by Whitman with 627.5, Pacific Lutheran 481, Puget Sound 454, Pacific 317, Linfield 210, Lewis & Clark 186, and Willamette 183.

Whitman's men ended up winning 10 of the 18 events, Puget Sound had three wins, Pacific and Pacific Lutheran two each, and Whitworth one.

The individual awards reflected Whitman's strong showing as Karl Mering received the Outstanding Male Swimmer award for his three victories, and Jennifer Blomme earned the vote of her colleagues as the Men's Coach of the Year.

The women's team title was never really in doubt from the opening day as the Pirates piled up a total of 11 event victories. In winning its third team title in the last four years, Whitworth dethroned defending champion Puget Sound.

Team scores showed Whitworth with 651 points followed by Puget Sound with 457, Whitman 453, Pacific Lutheran 431.5, Pacific 384.5, Lewis & Clark 335, Linfield 307 and Willamette 165.

Whitworth's Katherine Turner, who won three events, was named the Outstanding Female Swimmer, and Pacific Lutheran's Matt Sellman was selected by his peers as Women's Coach of the Year.

Galen Sollom-Brotherton from Whitman, the outstanding swimmer during the 2012 championship meet, won his third event in as many nights when he opened the men's Sunday evening session with a victory in the 1650 freestyle. Sollom-Brotherton's time of 15:47.53 made the NCAA meet provisional cut. Whitworth's Brandon Smith and PLU's Justin Murrell, second and third in the event, also made the provisional cut.

Puget Sound's second event victory in the championship meet came from Teale Kitson, who had a NCAA provisional time of 1:52.33 to win the men's 200 backstroke.

Karl Mering set a new Northwest Conference meet record in the 100 freestyle, winning his third event of the 2013 championships with a NCAA provisional qualifying time of 45.46. The former NWC meet record was 45.76 set by Whitworth's Michael Woodward in 2009.

Michael Hargitt from Pacific won his second event of these championships, taking the 200 breaststroke in 2:05.72, a NCAA provisional qualifying time. Whitman's Paul Chang placed second, also with a NCAA provisional qualifier.

Derek Frenzel, the 200 freestyle winner on Saturday, won his third straight 200 butterfly championship tonight and also broke his own meet record with a time of 1:49.95. That mark was also an automatic qualifying time for the NCAA Division III national meet. Wesley Tatum from Whitworth and Aleksander Jeremikj from Puget Sound recorded NCAA provisional times in finishing second and third, respectively.

Whitman capped its outstanding meet with a victory in the men's 400 freestyle relay, the team of Sam Starr, Chang, Sollom-Brotherton and Mering combining to win in 3:06.10.

With her victory in the 1650 freestyle, Whitworth's Bridget Louis won her second event of this championship meet. Louis was in a battle with defending champion Amanda Clark from Pacific for much of the race but gradually pulled away and won with a time of 17:33.13 compared to Clark's 17:40.65.

Whitworth's Katherine Duvall won the women's 200 backstroke for the third consecutive year with a NCAA provisional qualifying time of 2:04.35. Duvall added the 200 backstroke title after winning the 500 freestyle on Friday and the 100 backstroke on Saturday.

Rachel Cazden was Lewis & Clark's only event winner, taking the women's 100 freestyle with a time of 52.75, beating Katie Porter from Pacific by .06.

Puget Sound won three women's events throughout the course of the meet, and two came from one of the conference's best-ever in the breaststroke. Tracy Wormwood, who won her fourth consecutive 100 breaststroke title on Saturday night, came back tonight to take her fourth straight 200 breaststroke championship with a winning time of 2:19.42.

In the very next event, the 200 butterfly, Puget Sound's Melissa Norrish won her second straight title with a time of 2:09.40.

Whitworth's women capped off their meet with the program's 11th event victory, taking the 400 freestyle relay in a time of 3:34.01. Team members were Kori Carpenter, Nicole Lecoq, Hannah Norris and Alisa Stang.

LUTE NOTES: The meet almost couldn't have been better for Pacific Lutheran, said third-year head coach Matt Sellman.

"I can't imagine a better meet…21 (school) records," Sellman said. "This is the best meet I've ever been a part of as a coach. We started out on Friday morning and stayed great throughout the meet. It was as close to a perfect meet as you could ask for, from my perspective."

Pacific Lutheran capped off an outstanding meet Kina Ackerman, who placed third in the 200 individual medley on Friday and second in the 400 IM on Saturday, placed third in the 1650 freestyle with a time of 17:42.95. Hanna Armstrong, third in the 500 free on Friday and second in the 200 free on Saturday, placed fourth in the 1650 free, clocking 18:04.87.

With a strong finish, 100 backstroke school record holder Natasha Sioda placed third in the women's 200 backstroke with a time of 2:08.32. Darla Avis was 13th (2:17.42) and Amie Wilson 14th (2:18.31) in consolation finals.

The Lutes showed well in the 100 freestyle as Melissa Dean and Toni Castillo placed fifth and sixth, respectively. Dean's time of 53.36 was .05 seconds off of the school record, and Castillo clocked 53.66. Consolation finalist Michelle Hogan placed 13th (55.53).

In the women's 200 butterfly, Kelly Jernigan reached the championship final and ended up eighth with a time of 2:15.90.

The 400 freestyle relay team of Dean, Armstrong, Jernigan and Castillo set the team's fourth school relay record – out of five relays – with a time of 3:36.72, good for third place. The former school record of 3:36.80 was established in 1989 by the foursome of Karen Hanson, Tareena Joubert, Kathy Thompson and Carol Quarterman.

Freshman Justin Murrell had a record-setting performance – in fact, two – in the men's 1650 freestyle final. Murrell clocked 16:11.39 to break a record that was set before he was born. The former mark was 16:13.74 set by James Elwyn in 1990. Murrell's time made the NCAA national meet provisional cut. Additionally, Murrell's 1000 split was 9:47.57, establishing a new PLU standard in that non-championship event.

Kevin McKay finished 11th (17:29.26), Cameron Webber placed 15th (17:46.42) and Connor Osterlund was 16th (17:49.71) in the men's 1650 freestyle

Corban Elliott, the 100 backstroke champion winner on Saturday night, placed sixth in the 200 backstroke with a time of 1:56.73. Joseph Parker made the consolation final and finished 13th (2:03.26).

Chase Mesford set a new school record in the men's 100 freestyle, but for the third time in this meet he placed second in an event. Mesford's 46.42 broke the former PLU record of 46.50 set by Marc LeMaster in 1990, and it was second only to the NWC meet record of 45.46 established by Whitman's Karl Mering. Brian Ruggles finished fourth in the 100 freestyle with a time of 47.22, Phil Rempe was 10th (48.19) and Tyler Meade was 15th (48.91).

The Lutes qualified two swimmers in the 200 breaststroke consolation final, McKay placing 11th (2;14.64) and Dan Pedack taking 15th (2:21.22).

Jake Dacus had a strong showing in the 200 butterfly, placing fifth in a time of 1:55.50.

Pacific Lutheran's meet ended on a strong note. After the women's 400 freestyle relay team established a new school record, the men's team came back and did the same, also making it four school records out of five relays. The foursome of Ruggles, Rempe, Parker and Mesford finished in a time of 3:08.54.

The record was especially gratifying for Rempe and Mesford, who closed out their collegiate careers in that race. The former record was 3:10.41 set in 1996 by Fumi Moriyama, Mike Elwin, David Viau and Matt Sellman – now the head coach.

- PLU -