PREVIEW: Northwest Conference

There’s a lot of excitement in the Northwest Conference this season, and it starts with something new, as George Fox will be fielding its first men’s and women’s swimming and diving teams this season, expanding the league’s membership in the sport to nine. Six of the league’s seven NCAA qualifiers are back, and there will be very competitive races among the team’s for championship finishes throughout the league.

Here are our projected standings with previews:

NWC WOMEN:

  1. Whitman – Whitman defended its NWC title in 2018 and all evidence points to the same happening in 2019. At the top, Whitman returns four great seniors in Mara Selznick (52 pts., 4 relays) – the 2018 NWC 100 Back Champ who went on to earn HM All-America honors in the same event – Sarah Davidson (47, 1r), Abbey Felley (41, 1r), and Gaby Thomas (39, 2r), to go along with leading scorer and NWC 50/100 Free champ Zoe Hill (53, 3r). The Blues also add the most top-end talent in the league in their five-woman freshman class, led by Bella White (1:57.55/5:14 FR, 1:08.34/2:23.3 BR, 57.68/2:04.0 FL, 2:07.68/4:30.79 IM), the league’s top rookie on paper and a should-be NCAA qualifier. Ashley Joe (25.15/54.05/1:56.6/5:18.9, 58.78/2:07.6 BA, 58.66 FL, 2:11.5/4:40.8 IM) isn’t far behind, and Annika Hobson (1:59.1/5:15.3/18:17) should also make a big impact.
  2. Pacific Lutheran – Kaycee Simpson (57 pts., 4 relays), the 2018 NWC Freshman of the Year, is back after sweeping the fly events at the league championships and qualifying to NCAAs a year ago, and the Lutes also return their next four scorers in Victoria Nguyenle (45, 2r), Taylor Bingea (41, 1r), Lauren Kearney (32, 2r), and Jenna Muller (31, 1r). The departure of sprinter Aspen Monkhouse (31, 4r) to conference new-start George Fox is the biggest loss, as it impacts Pac Lu’s relays, but freshmen Emma Brownrigg (24.74/53.95/1:56.2/5:22/18:45, 1:00.3 FL), Tori Oshiro (5:26/18:45, 2:28.5 BR), Hannah VanHeyningen (1:58.23/5:09.1/18:05, 1:03.3/2:15.8 BA, 4:49.9 IM), and the rest of PLU’s 11-woman class should be able to more than recoup the 76 total individual points lost.
  3. Linfield – Linfield returns its top five scorers and seven of its top eight, led by senior Evette Dow (60 pts., 4 relays), the 2018 NWC Co-Swimmer of the Year after sweeping the distance free events. Fellow seniors Kaedi Fry (49, 4r) and Tahnijo (35, 4r) are also back, as are junior Molli Hartzell (47, 4r) and sophomore Emily Samudio (37, 1r). The Wildcats also add a pair of really strong recruits in Vianka Hoyer (24.41/55.37/2:02.10, 1:01.6 BA, 57.06/2:12.6 FL, 4:51.4 IM) and Abby Mattern (24.98/53.99/1:58.3, 59.15/2:14.4 BA, 58.3/2:12.5 FL, 2:17.4 IM), but the biggest question for the team is returner Elizabeth Fryer, who missed the 17-18 season. At the 2017 NWC Championships, she reached B-Finals in the 200, 500, and 2BA, but her HS times have her as a top-3 scorer in multiple events. If she can recapture that HS form, Linfield may bump ahead of Pac Lu into the second spot.
  4. Whitworth – The Pirates don’t have a single senior on this year’s roster and return each of their top five scorers. Junior Hannah Galbraith (42.5 pts., 4 relays) is back after qualifying for NCAAs a year ago, as are Molly Vagt (47, 3r), Livi Cox (38, 1r), Jamie Siegler (32, 4r), and Marissa Gibson (23, 1r). Of their recruits, Jessica Defiesta (5:18/18:29, 2:15.7 BA, 2:30.2 BR, 2:15.3/4:46 IM), Isabella Hackney (25.14/54.3/1:58.9/5:22.3, 1:01 FL, 2:15.9/4:47 IM), and Eve Vetter (1:02.3 BA, 1:08.7/2:31.8 BR, 59.77/2:15.4 FL, 2:15.3/4:46 IM) should all be able to score significant points.
  5. Lewis & Clark – The Pioneers return the highest percentage of their individual points from last year’s NWC Championships, and that’s a big reason why we have them moving up. Junior Sam Duran (45 pts., 4 relays) and seniors Kassie Kometani (44, 4r) and Eleanor Gerrior (20, 4r) lead the way, and L&C also brings in a pretty strong recruiting class. KK Fiddler (2:00.7/5:26/18:55, 1:00.8/2:07.7 BA, 2:15.4 FL, 2:13.2/4:39.5 IM) is the strongest of the crop on paper, while Alys Chang (2:01.5/5:21 FR, 2:28.7 BR, 2:16.2/4:47.1 IM), Caroline Karson (24.95/55.05 FR, 1:08.3/2:34.9 BR, 58.79/2:13.1 FL), and Ciara Orness (1:08.2/2:29.4 BR, 2:17.4 IM) should all have an impact.
  6. Puget Sound – Kelli Callahan (60 pts., 4 relays) is back after winning NWC titles in the 100 Breast and both IMs to earn NWC Co-Swimmer of the Year honors and a trip to NCAAs in the 400 IM. Calista Skog (46, 4r) and Kassidy Cook (28, 1r) are back, but the losses of Kayla DiMicco (20, 3r), Melisa Kegans (16, 2r), Carmen Mena (18), and Kaarina Nyman (12) all matter, and, by what was available on CollegeSwimming.com, the Loggers’ recruiting class doesn’t appear to be able to offset those losses. Alex Nadelson (1:08.6/2:32 BR) is the most ready to contribute among 11 newcomers.
  7. Willamette – Cassie Tallman (40 pts., 2 relays), Ashlyn Witherwax (26, 1r), and Kate Harvey (8, 3r) have all graduated, leaving Kiley Lin (39, 3r), Niki Kates (36, 2r), and Anna Burdine (18, 1r) to carry the scoring load. None of the Bearcats’ five newcomers appears immediately capable of scoring significant points.
  8. George Fox – The transfer of Aspen Monkhouse (NWC 50 Runner-up, 5th in 100) from Pac Lu gives George Fox a great building block on which HC Natalie Turner can build her brand-new program. Olivia Gibson (24.94/55.3/2:03.4, 1:02.15 BA, 1:01.1 FL) appears to be the most ready among the team’s freshmen, while Chloe Weber, Gabrielle Wood, and Jamie and Joanna Zuckerman have potential on paper. With essentially all but Monkhouse new to collegiate swimming, this team could bump up another spot if the freshmen respond well and improve.
  9. Pacific – New HC Beth Whittle has a lot of work in front of her in her first season at Pacific, Leading scorer Kayla Knock (11 pts., 2 relays) graduated, and the Boxers in total lost 14 of their 20 relay swims from a year ago. Lauren McWilliams (9, 2r) and Maya Okamura (3, 1r) are the only returning individual scorers. Freshman Hannah Brandow (59.88/2:10.19 BA, 1:00.96 FL) is a big pickup but still not nearly enough to lift Pacific out of the league basement.

NWC MEN:

  1. Whitworth – The Pirates did lose HM All-American backstroker Patrick Wilber (51 pts., 4 relays, HMAA in 1BA/2BA) and Jake McCollough (28) to graduation, but they return six forty-point scorers – twice as many as anyone in the league. Reigning NWC Freshman of the Year Ryan Grady (57, 1r) leads the way after winning league titles in the 4IM and 200 Breast, and Owen Lempert (57, 4r) won a pair of league titles as well in the 50 Free and 100 Breast. Byron Rossmiller (50), Keenan Robinson (45, 1r), Eben Schumann (43, 4r), and Jake Davis (41, 3r) are all back, too, and freshman Logan Todd (48.21/1:43.6/4:40.4, 52.63/1:53.4 FL) is one of the best in the league. Finn McClone (47.6/1:44.4/4:46.7, 53.7/1:57.2 BA, 54.3 FL, 4:21 IM) and Alexander Henderson (59.7/2:07.5 BR) should also be able to help immediately, and three other freshmen come in with times capable of scoring, too. While the race for second should be mighty interesting, Whitworth is a clear cut above the rest this year.
  2. Whitman – The Blues lost leading scorer Clark Sun (57 pts., 4 relays) and three others among their top six – Keith Nussbaum (38), Kieran Lenssen (33, 2r), Jared Sears (31, 4r) – which amounts more than half the team’s individual points earned a year ago. Jonah Rodewald (43, 2r) and Fisher Munro (39, 3r) are back, and Whitman’s freshman class is fairly deep. Michael Chang (54.16/2:00.9 BA, 50.97/1:52.15 FL, 1:59.1/4:28.4 IM) is great in the fly events, and Jack Schrader (21.79 50, 57.09 BR) is the early favorite to win the 100 Breast, while Brandon Bees (1:44.27 200, 52.30/2:03.4 FL), Aidan Laird (17:24, 2:14.4 BR, 4:21.4 IM), and Evan Marquardt (4:51.3/16:59, 55.0 BA, 4:17.1 IM) all should be able to contribute, but the margin over Linfield could be even closer than the 29 points it was last year.
  3. Linfield – NWC Swimmer of the Year Noah Cutting (60 pts., 4 relays) is back for his junior season after sweeping the fly events and winning the 2IM at NWCs, but his year finished in disappointment as he took 17th in the 200 Fly and 18th in the 100 Fly at the NCAA Championships, just missing out on adding to his HM All-America honors earned as a freshman. Senior Trevor Gourley (48, 4r) and sophomore Daisuke Fitial (46, 1r) are among the league’s top returners, but the losses of Neirton Oliveira (47, 4r) and Matthew Hanson (33, 4r), among others, will hurt this year. JUCO transfer Matt Lemire (1:46.57/4:44.1/16:23, 54.3/1:59 FL) should make the biggest impact among the team’s newcomers, while Tyler Cook (21.79/47.83/1:47.1, 56.25 BA) and Mitchell Morrison (47.8 100) should also factor in.
  4. Pacific Lutheran – PLU loses three of it’s top five scorers from 2018 in Paul Jett (46 pts., 4 relays), Bryson Baligad (34, 4r), and Dennis Liu (34, 2r), but they do return seniors Bradley Jerome (46, 1r), Jacob Goodman (40, 3r), and Elijah Singstad (25, 4r). Andrew Kwon (49.33/1:45.1/4:53/17:23, 54.1 BA, 2:04.6 FL, 4:29.4 IM) leads the six-man recruiting class, but it’s not likely enough to recoup the team’s losses.
  5. Puget Sound – Puget Sound should challenge Pacific Lutheran for fourth, but the 125-point gap from last year might be just a touch too much to overcome. Dylan Reimers (56 pts., 4 relays) is back after winning the 500 and 1650 a year ago, and Ian Conery (29, 3r) returns, too, but the Loggers did lose Nick Mitchell (30, 3r) and Caleb Van Boven (20, 1r). Brett Kolb (47.95/1:44.79/4:42.48/16:58, 56.05/2:02.7 BA, 1:58.5/4:23.6 IM) and Aaron Zevenbergen (51.6/1:57.8 FL) are the best among the team’s six recruits, while Eli Champagne (52.1/2:00.9 FL, 4:34 IM) and Matthew Cole (21.36 50, 54.5 FL) should help, too.
  6. Willamette – The Bearcats return each of their top four scorers in Ben Hedman (47 pts.), Ben Fritz (42, 4 relays), Derek Ludwig (32, 4r), and Colin Hakeman (31)., but they did lose their fifth double-digit scorer, Mark Yuvienco (29, 4r), to graduation. Their three freshman appear to be pretty raw, but if any surprise, they could climb a spot.
  7. Lewis & Clark – Lewis & Clark returns their top two scorers in Kyle Monteleone (39 pts., 4 relays) and Andrew Butcher (30, 4r), both of whom will look to build off strong freshman seasons. Senior August Bergh (26, 3r) is also a key returner, but the graduation of Miles French (28, 2r) is key, and we aren’t sure that the Pioneers brought in enough to replace him. There are only two freshmen on the team, with JP Greener (21.94/48.17 FR) the most likely to have an impact.
  8. George Fox – Nine swimmers are on the roster for the Bruins in their inaugural season, and JUCO transfer Caleb Dean (21.70/49.5/1:46.4 FR, 53.5/1:59.0 BA) and freshman Zach Johnson (59.67/2:12.1 BR, 53.18 FL, 1:58.75 IM) are the best of the lot while Noah Burlingame (55.18 BA) should also be able to contribute. The gap to seventh ahead seems pretty significant, but, like with the women, if the mostly new squad responds to Coach Turner’s training, moving up isn’t impossible.
  9. Pacific – If it was going to be a long year for the Pacific women, it might be longer for the men, who lost six of the nine athletes on their roster to graduation, including top scorers Raymond Miller (28 pts., 4 relays) and Michael Sakai (9, 4r). Aukai Kea (7, 4r) is the team’s top returner, and Hung Huynh (17:00, 2:15 BR, 1:59.6 FL, 2:00.1/4:18.9 IM) is the best of a five-man recruiting class.

Projected Award Winners:

  • Women’s Swimmer of the Year: Kelli Callahan, Puget Sound
  • Women’s Newcomer of the Year: Bella White, Whitman
  • Men’s Swimmer of the Year: Noah Cutting, Linfield
  • Men’s Newcomer of the Year: Logan Todd, Whitworth

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