At the 2015 Western Athletic Conference (WAC) Swimming and Diving Championships, Seattle U swimmers took to the pool where they cut times in a number of events.
Though Northern Arizona and UNLV took the WAC titles for women and men respectively, Seattle U showed progress that is promising continued advancement in the water.
Senior Bart Wanot set a new school record in the 200-meter backstroke, with a time of 1:46.01 in his preliminary round. Wanot would go on to post a 1:48.66 in the “A” final of the event, finishing eighth overall.
Head Coach Craig Nisgor, who just finished his fourth season in charge of the Redhawks, shared plenty of time in the pool with Wanot, and saw his development firsthand.
“Look at the times,” Nisgor said of his standout senior. “His 100 backstroke was half a second faster than what it had been, his 200 backstroke was almost 3 seconds faster than where he’d been, [he’s shown] incredible improvement.”
Though Wanot won’t be back next fall, Nisgor knows that he has made a lasting impression on the program.
“Leaving as a senior making his NCAA ‘B’ cut, being a school record holder in three events, is a pretty good way to go out,” Nisgor added.
Wanot wasn’t the only swimmer to conjure an impressive stint in the backstroke. Junior Lee Van Farowe, freshman Morgan Montemayor, and redshirt sophomore Sam Donohue all cut time from their previous scores in the 200 backstroke. The young group showcased the potential they will bring back to next season’s WAC championships in the event.
On the girls side, the four person relay team of Blaise Wittenauer-Lee, Rachael Rodriguez, Sidney Pinger, and Kristin Hoffman set their fifth school record in a row in the 400-meter freestyle. The group, comprised of all sophomores, swam over two seconds faster than the time recorded at last year’s championships, coming in at 3:27.48. Hoffman also reached another “A” division final in the 100-meter freestyle with a preliminary time of 51.72 seconds. She then finished in eighth place in the event after an evening time of 52.14 seconds in the final heat.
The group of sophomores are among many of the young swimmers at Seattle U that are finding their mark in the program, something that Nisgor was very proud of.
“A lot of them are finally coming into their own and realizing what they can do, what they are capable of,” Nisgor said of his freestyle relay team. “I’ve seen the team really grow in the past couple of years and this group has been really amazing. They’ve really wanted it, and they make it happen.”
Senior Bethany Gehrke also slashed seconds from her time in last year’s championships in the 1000 and 1650-meter freestyle events. Coming in at 10:21.86 for the 1000-meter freestyle, Gehrke cut a staggering six seconds from her time she recorded last year. And in the 1650-meter event, Gehrke recorded a time of 17:10.75, three seconds faster than her previous best and good enough to finish in eighth place. Junior Allie McGavok finished in 18th place and sophomore Emma Foster finished in 20th in the same event.
Freshman Madi Lydig earned Second Team All-WAC honors after placing sixth in the 200-meter backstroke final with a time of 2:03.15.
Junior Jane Liggett won the “B” final of the 200-meter butterfly for the Redhawks. After posting a preliminary time of 2:07.45 seconds, Liggett cut time and posted a 2:06.17 to finish first in her final heat.
Nick Connors was another leader for Seattle U on the men’s side, placing in ninth in the 1650-meter freestyle with a time of 15:52.17
Nisgor, having coached at The University of Alabama and Brown University before coming to Seattle U, knows the reality of NCAA Division I swimming and the monetary aspects that go alongside the size of the school. Seattle U’s swimming team doesn’t always stack up financially against some larger programs, which can provide extra motivation for his team.
“A lot of people gained the confidence, and realized [money] doesn’t matter. Most of these teams we are swimming against are fully funded. They have a lot of money in scholarships,” Nisgor said. He even added that his swimmers have to compete against competition from not just other parts of the country, but other parts of the world.
“Both of the people [ahead of Blaise Wittenauer-Lee], one is from Australia, one is from Ukraine. These teams are able to bring in people from all these places, because they have the money to do it,” Nisgor said.
However, Seattle U continues to make strides in the pool and advance their cohesiveness.
“We have a group that chose Seattle University because this is where they want to be. [We have an] incredible educational environment, and it’s incredible being Division I. This is where they want to be, and that means they’re here for the right reasons,” Nisgor added.
After a month-long break, the Seattle U swim team will begin training again in April, where they will hope to continue to cut times and arrive at this point next year swimming even faster.