Seattle U Swim and Track & Field Continue to Build New Culture


Adeline Ong

Seattle University swimmer mid butterfly stroke.

There’s more to sports than wins and losses, just ask Seattle University’s swim and track & field teams. Both competed at their respective Western Athletic Conference (WAC) Championships last week – Feb. 24 and 25 for track & field and Feb. 22 and 25 for swimming – but neither team came close to winning many events.

You would not be able to tell from the demeanors of the players and coaches.

For track and field Head Coach Kelly Sullivan, now in his fifth year at Seattle U, emphasizing internal improvement over wins and losses has brought measurable success. Sullivan’s staff, composed almost completely of new volunteer coaches, share the same values.

“If you can get individuals to perform well, mature, grow and develop, then everything else will have a way of taking care of itself,” Sullivan said.

That mindset translated throughout the indoor track season. In all, Seattle U had 27 top-ten performances in school history, and four school records were broken during the indoor season. Senior sprinter Isaiah Payne pointed to the team’s second meet at the University of Washington as one of the most productive days for the team.

Multiple sprinters turned in personal bests in the 60 meter dash as Freshman Miguel Rosario III broke his own school record at the event with a time of 6.80 seconds. The team energy was palpable as Junior Bryana Rogers and Freshman Zoe Tibbo placed top-ten at the meet in the triple jump and long jump, respectively threatening school records.

“We didn’t win the meet. None of us won an event, but just as a team we were so amped up,” Payne said. “We could see that we were progressing because we were all running faster than our lifetime bests.”

All those performances culminated in record-breaking showings from both the men and women’s distance medley relay (DMR) teams. The women’s team raced a time of 11:55.21 in January, demolishing the previous school record. The time would have been enough to comfortably take home a WAC title in the event as well, but injuries and illness derailed the women’s team’s hopes. In the end, they finished fourth in the DMR at the WAC Championship.

The men’s DMR was able to fulfill their hopes of a title, though, posting a time of 10:00.10 and breaking their own school record in the process. They had lofty goals for the event, aiming for a time of 9:50 according to Payne, who ran the 400-meter leg. The title-winning race ended up being far more competitive, as the Redhawks were in third place going into the final leg of the relay. Fortunately for their gold medal hopes, Junior Gus Harquail ran a strong mile in the final leg to close the gap, earning Seattle U their third WAC title in the DMR under Sullivan.

It was indicative of the steady growth both track & field and swim have been fostering. In fact, swim has posted 20 top-10 times so far during Head Coach Joe Dykstra’s first season.

“I don’t think it could have gone much better,” Dykstra wrote to The Spectator. “We had a total buy-in from the swimmers to a new methodology of training, and it led to a great team atmosphere and loads of success.”

That instant bond between the brand-new staff and the swimmers was no accident. In searching for a new head coach following the departure of 11-year head coach Craig Nisgor, a few athletes from each class were consulted and got to interview the coaching candidates. Sophomore swimmer Sammy Mosier was among the athletes who were invited to participate in the process.

“I felt really grateful,” Mosier said. “It was a lot of pressure, but it was a great honor to be able to say like, ‘they think I represent this team well enough to help pick the coach.’”

Mosier also described the new coaching staff’s program as more hands-on and intensive in teaching swim technique.

The result? A string of record-breaking performances.

Freshman Sarah Cook has already etched her name into Seattle U’s record books, earning top-10 performances in seven events in her first year. Sophomores Nicholas Imig and Cole Lanting have made a similar impact, posting six top-10 performances during their time with the team. Imig also stands alone as the champion of the 50m freestyle at Seattle U, posting a time of 19.88 seconds at the WAC Championship last week. To end the WAC Championship for Seattle U, Sophomore swimmer Jaxon Gonzales broke the school record in the 200m breaststroke.

“I think the team exceeded my competitive expectations for my first year,” Dykstra wrote. “It is looking very bright for the next few years with so much of our success coming from the underclassmen.”

In the end, neither program delivered top finishes at their respective meets, but the emphasis on individual improvement for track & field and cultivating the next generation of competitors in swimming seems to be a formula for the future.

“We’re trying to set the culture, you know?,” Payne said. “Prove to other teams that you’re no joke. Run your best, and the accolades and awards will come later.”

This is not the end for either team in 2023 though. Track & field will kick off their outdoor season in less than a month at the University of Oregon Hayward Premiere, and the swim team will compete one more time at the National Invitational Championship Mar. 9 to 11.