Six Bearcats Earn Top 8 Finishes on Last Day of NWC Swimming Championships

Ben Fritz (So., Los Gatos, CA/Leigh HS)
Ben Fritz (So., Los Gatos, CA/Leigh HS)

By Robert McKinney, Assistant Athletics Director, Communications

FEDERAL WAY, Wash. -- Six Willamette University athletes earned top eight finishes at the 2019 Northwest Conference Swimming Championships on Sunday, Feb. 10, during the final day of competition. All five earned Second Team All-NWC honors. In addition, five Bearcats placed between 11th and 16th in their respective events.

Due to the weather, Sunday's schedule at the NWC Championships was changed from separate sessions with prelims and finals to one session of heats against time to determine the final standings in each event.

"The NWC Championships resulted in a fantastic meet for our men and women," Willamette Head Coach Brent Summers said. "My goal for this meet was for us to go in and give our best effort each and every race. We said each morning that in order to swim in the finals, they had to give everything in the prelims, and each one of our swimmers did so."

The Bearcats who placed in the top eight on Sunday were Ben Fritz (So., Los Gatos, CA/Leigh HS), Niki Kates (Jr., Truckee, CA/Forest Charter School), Kiley Lin (Sr./Jr., Palo Alto, CA/Henry M. Gunn HS), Derek Ludwig (Jr., Moraga, CA/Campolindo HS), Colin Hakeman (Jr., Bellingham, WA/Sehome HS), and Mykah Fujiwara (Sr., Kaneohe, HI/Punahou School).

Fritz placed fourth in the men's 1,650-yard freestyle, while setting the Willamette record at 16:22.00. He broke his own record of 16:30.34 set at last year's NWC Championships. Fritz also set a new record in the 1,000-yard freestyle during the race, as he completed the first 1,000 yards in 9:54.46. The previous record was 9:59.84 by Brady Childs in 2000.

"I want to congratulate all of our new school record holders for the men's and women's teams," Summers said. "They all worked hard and deserve their names up on our record board."

Kates took fifth place in the women's 200-yard backstroke. She was timed at 2:07.37 which set a personal best and moved her up from fourth into second on WU's all-time list. Only Lin, who set the school record at 2:05.72 in 2016, has a faster time for the Bearcats. Kates' previous top time was 2:08.29 at the 2018 NWC Championships.

On Sunday, Lin was sixth in the women's 200-yard butterfly with a time of 2:13.20. She was just 0.32 away from her career-best time of 2:12.88 that ranks fifth all-time at Willamette and was set last year.

In the men's 200-yard butterfly, Ludwig placed sixth with a new personal-best time of 1:56.76. His previous top time was 1:57.65. in 2017. Ludwig edged out Aaron Zevenbergen from University of Puget Sound by 0.13 to take sixth place. Zevenbergen was seventh in 1:56.89.

Hakeman joined Fritz in the top eight in the men's 1,650-yard freestyle. Hakeman completed the race in 17:02.61 for sixth place.

Fujiwara was eighth in the men's 200-yard breaststroke. He earned a time of 2:11.46, which lowered his personal record by 2.43 seconds from the 2:13.89 he achieved at the 2019 NWC Championships.

Athletes from Willamette who placed 11th through 16th on Sunday were Rachel Harvill (Sr., Alamo, CA/Monte Vista HS), Cameron Taggesell (So., Sonoma, CA/Sanoma Valley HS), Anna Burdine (Sr., Seattle, WA/Mount Rainier HS), Robbie Daugherty (Fr., Reno, NV/Damonte Ranch HS), and Daniel Fang (So., Rancho Santa Margarita, CA/Catholic HS.

Harvill was 11th in the women's 100-yard freestyle with a personal record of 54.65 seconds, while Taggesell placed 11th in the women's 200-yard breaststroke at 2:33.39., which also set a personal record. Taggesell lowered her previous top time by more than six seconds.

Burdine finished in 12th place in the women's 1,650-yard freestyle. She registered a personal record of 18:41.71, while edging out Anne Walkup of Linfield College, who finished just 1.35 seconds later.

Daugherty took 15th place in the men's 1,650-yard freestyle. He lowered his personal best by more than 50 seconds to 17:39.31. Fang was 16th in the men's 200-yard butterfly with a personal record of 2:03.62, as he narrowly edged out Phillip Hecksel of Pacific Lutheran University, who ended the race in 2:03.62. Fang lowered his personal record by 3.48 seconds.

"It was a great meet with lots of fast swimming from all the schools," Summers commented. "I'm excited as we move forward because we have some great swimmers who will be coming back next season. Finally, I want to congratulate our seniors -- Anna Burdine, Owen Davis, Rachel Harvill, Kiley Lin and Nick Leibman -- for finishing their Bearcat careers. I also want to thank them for all they have given to our program these past four years."

Whitworth University won the men's team championship with a score of 665.5 points. Linfield was second at 481 with Puget Sound in third at 405. Whitman College was fourth at 385, Lewis & Clark finished fourth at 338, Pacific Lutheran was sixth at 323, Willamette took seventh at 260, George Fox University placed eighth at 241.5 and Pacific University was ninth with 132 points.

The women's team title went to Whitman with 559 points. Linfield, which held a slim lead after Saturday's finals, ended the meet in second place at 521. Whitworth placed third at 494, while Pacific Lutheran was fourth at 444, and Puget Sound was fifth at 371. Lewis & Clark was sixth at 344, Willamette placed seventh at 239, George Fox was eighth at 208 and Pacific finished ninth with 105 points.

Kiley Lin (Sr./Jr., Palo Alto, CA/Henry M. Gunn HS)

Big Moment of the Day for Willamette

Kiley Lin closed out her Willamette swimming career with a strong
performance at the NWC Championships. On Sunday, she placed sixth
in the women's 200-yard butterfly with a time of 2:13.20. On Saturday,
she placed sixth in the women's 100-yard backstroke in 58.79 seconds and
was eighth in the women's 100-yard butterfly in 59.19 seconds. Lin had
some of the top swims in Willamette history at the NWC Championships
during her three seasons of competition.