Monday, November 12, 2012

Women's Team Fortitude Keeps Them Undefeated

Whitman and Lewis & Clark’s Women’s teams have a rivalry born out of the NWC Championships, many years in the making.  2005 marked the beginning, where Whitman bested LC at the NWC Championships 586-248, Whitman 3rd and LC 7th.  The following year, the tables turned as LC took 2nd with 528 points to Whitman’s 4th place effort of 470 points.  A string of extremely close championship meets over the next five years brought the rivalry to the highest level: In 2007, Whitman’s women defeated LC 407-400, for a third place finish.  In 2008, Whitman was on top yet again, placing third overall with 411 points to LC’s 392.  In 2009, LC defeated Whitman soundly for a third place finish with 456 points to Whitman’s fourth place effort of 320.5 points.  In 2010 and 2011, LC and Whitman found themselves locked into two program-defining battles for third place.  LC came out on top in both of those contests, edging out victories of 356-355 in 2010, and 449-448 in 2011.  The odds of any two teams being separated by only one point after 18 events and three days of competition are astronomically low.  The difference between 3rd place overall and 4th place overall was ultimately determined by a 16th place finish in one individual event.  The 2012 Championship brought revenge to our women’s team.  Whitman placed 3rd with 506 points.  Lewis & Clark was 6th with 303.

This history was not forgotten on Friday night’s contest between Whitman and Lewis & Clark.  Whitman was down five points with only the 100 breaststroke and 200 free relay remaining.  After a 1-2-3 sweep in the breaststroke to pick up 16 points, and another 1-2 finish in the 200 free relay to pick up another 15 points, Whitman’s women won the meet easily 113-92.  Whitman’s breaststroke dominance and powerful final relays outscored LC 31-5 over the final two events—proving that breaststroke continues to be a Whitman stronghold, and that when it comes down the the end, our women can get it done.  

Friday night's drama only set the stage for Saturday’s showdown against Pacific.  After an incredible 102.66-102.33 upset over reigning conference champions, University of Puget Sound, last weekend, Pacific’s women had momentum to carry into another tough weekend of meets against Whitworth on Friday and Whitman.   Falling to Whitworth on Friday night, Pacific came to the pool on Saturday making it clear that though they were defeated the previous night they were ready for battle. 

Whitman easily won the 400 medley relay.  After the early relay victory, Whitman picked up 2nd, 3rd, and 4th in the 1000 free, 2nd and 3rd in the 200 free, 2nd and 3rd in the 50 free, 3rd, 4th and 5th in the 200 IM, and 2nd and 3rd in the 200 fly.  It was Cameo Hlebasko’s continued dominance in the 200 backstroke that notched Whitman’s first individual event victory with a time of 2:12.43.  She hasn't lost a dual meet race in the backstroke yet this year.  Ashley Jay lost a tough race in the 500 free, falling to 2nd but going a season-best 5:25.58.  Going into the 200 breaststroke Whitman was down by 13 points.  

Once again, it was the breaststroke that decided the meet for our women.  Claire Collins swam to a win with a 2:29.70 in the 200 breaststroke, just out-touching Senior teammate Genay Pilarowski who  finished second at 2:29.71.  Freshman, Elise Tinseth, was 4th at 2:33.88.  Following the breaststroke, Whitman finished the meet with a definitive 400 free relay performance.  Senior, Helen Jenne led off, followed by Freshman, Kendra Clinton, Sophomore, Ashley Jay, and Freshman, Cameo Hlebasko.  They won the relay by nearly five seconds and averaged :55.2 per leg.  The final score was Whitman 104, Pacific 101.

Saturday’s victory was a true team effort.  Whitman won just 4 out of 11 events—only 2 out of 9 individual events.  The difference-makers were the swimmers fighting for the one and two points awarded to fourth and fifth place.

These are big victories for our women’s team.  But their toughest contests are yet to come.  Pacific Lutheran and Whitworth’s teams both also hold 4-0 Conference dual meet records.  University of Puget Sound is 3-1, their only loss to Pacific.  Whitworth defeated Pacific and Lewis & Clark easily in their match-ups, and UPS defeated Lewis & Clark as well.  PLU also took down Pacific's women by a significant margin.  Our women face off against PLU, UPS, and Whitworth in January.  By then, we will have only gotten faster as we will have welcomed back Juniors Ellen Banks and Keller Hawkins from a semester of studying abroad.  We will also be joined by Senior, Charlotte Graham, who missed last weekend due to an academic conflict.  Senior, Katie Chapman—who will miss fall competition due to an ACL replacement—is also scheduled to return to competition in January.

This Saturday, November 17th, Whitman is hosting the NW Invitational.  Three other teams will be here for the one-day meet: Whitworth, Pacific, and College of Idaho.  The meet starts at 1pm at the Paul Harvey Pool and will be a 32-event-order format meet—all five freestyle events will be swum, plus the 200 IM, 100’s and 200’s of each stroke, the 200 medley relay and the 800 freestyle relay.