Contact: Mark Albanese, Director of Sports Communication
TACOMA, Wash. - Relying heavily on a battle tested senior class the Pacific Lutheran University men's and women's swimming teams have its sights set on big things heading into this weekend's Northwest Conference Championships at the King County Aquatic Center in Federal Way, Washington.
The Lute women are gunning for their fourth consecutive NWC crown while the men look to improve on last season's third place finish as they descend on the King County Aquatic Center for the three day championships that get underway on Friday. PLU had a banner meet at the 2016 Championships with the men and women combining to have 24 student-athletes earn a program record 93 All-NWC honors.
"The NWCs is a totally different format (from the regular season) but it's the format we're really built for. I think that's one of the things we've known and the team is excited to get to this point. This is a meet where we can show exactly what we're capable of and who we are and we're really excited for it, especially with how we finished the regular season," said Head Coach Matt Sellman.
"The taper leads to a lot of enthusiasm and renewed energy. Both the men and women are ready to show exactly what we are top to bottom and our depth is a boon and our strength as a team. If we're to accomplish what I think we're capable of, it's going to be our depth that does it for us. That's exciting because every race and every point matters and everybody has to be ready to rock n' roll."
Last season the women ran away with the team title, winning 12 of the 18 events contested and sweeping all five relays for the second consecutive season. Among the strong core of returners is Erica Muller, the defending champion in the 1,650 freestyle and a member of the winning 800 medley relay team. Muller, now a senior, heads into the championships as one of the favorites, owning the fastest times in the NWC in the 500 freestyle, 200 individual medley, and the 1,650 freestyle.
Reese Ackman gears up for her final NWC Championships and looks to defend her title in the 100 butterfly. Ackman, an All-NWC selection in three events last year, currently owns the second fastest time in the 100 fly. Luna Kim captured two NWC titles last season as a member of the 200 medley and 400 medley relays and currently owns the sixth fastest time in the 100 backstroke in 2017.
Not to be overlooked by the strong performance of the senior class has been the emergence of a pair of first years in Danielle Booth and Victoria Nguyenle. Booth currently holds down the top time in the NWC in the 100 breaststroke while ranking third in the 100 freestyle and fifth in the 50 free. Nguyenle owns the fastest time in the 200 breaststroke while ranking second in the 100 breaststroke and fifth in the 200 individual medley.
"You always have a pretty good idea of the athletes you have on your roster and what they're going to be capable of. I think our freshmen are really looking strong right now. It took them a while to ramp up, but our freshman class I expect to see some really impressive things from but across the board and across all the classes we have looked really good."
For the men's squad, the Lutes return nine student-athletes who earned All-NWC honors including seniors Hunter Cosgrove, Cody Hartman, Bennon VanHoof, and Matt Wehr. VanHoof enters the NWC meet ranked third in the 200 breaststroke while owning the sixth fastest time in the 100 breaststroke. Cosgrove and Hartman both collected All-Conference honors in four events last season while Wehr earned six All-NWC citations at the 2016 championships.
Dennis Liu owns the second fastest time in the 100 breaststroke heading into the weekend and ranks eighth in the 100 freestyle while Paul Jett sits fifth in the 50 free and 100 free and sixth in the 200 IM.
During the dual meet season the Lute women dominated the rest of the conference, posting a 7-0 mark for the third straight year while the men finished tied for second in the league standings after compiling a 5-2 mark, including winning their last two dual meets over Whitman College (107-98) and the University of Puget Sound (168-74).
"We knew going into the year that duals would be a little tougher than they have been in previous years," said Head Coach Matt Sellman. "We don't have a lot of superstars on the squad. Dual meets are really all about winning races. We knew our women would be good and our men would have some really tough meets throughout the season and we did."
"The women continued to step up every time and exert themselves. The men had a couple rough duals early in the year, especially in November, but in January we really came into our own and swam much better in duals in the second half of the year and competed really well. Even the loss against Whitworth we were close and we hung in. It was a really good way to finish the regular season and it gives us some momentum heading into the NWC Championships."
The NWC Championships are broken down into six sessions across the three days. Preliminaries begin at 10 a.m. daily on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday with the finals session beginning at 5 p.m. each day.