5C Swimmers Deliver Strong Performances in NCAA Championships

Fractions of seconds separated winners, losers and old rivals at the NCAA Swimming & Diving National Championships in Shenandoah, Texas March 18-21. Swimmers from both the Pomona-Pitzer and
Claremont-Mudd-Scripps programs were invited based on their individual SCIAC meet performances to compete in a field with many national record-breaking athletes. 

Many CMS and P-P swimmers earned All-American honors—not an easy feat against such top-tier competition. Cameron Whiting CM ’15, who swam the
200-yard freestyle and placed eleventh overall in the consolation heat, was impressed by the talent and competitive atmosphere of the meet. 

“It’s
insane,” he said. “If you look at almost all the races now, it was tenths of a second that
you were fighting for. Maybe you race 40 people in prelims, but only
the top 16 make it back (to the finals). Within that top 16 [in the 200 free], ninth place was a 1:38.9, and sixteenth
place was a 1:39.3, so four-tenths of a second separated us. You can barely
start and stop a stopwatch that fast.”

Mark Hallman PO ’18, PPSD’s sole male swimmer in Shenandoah, demonstrated the tiny fraction of time that often separates the All-American and runner-up with his First Team All American Honors performance in the 200 free. Hallman scored 17 points to place 36th overall.    

“[Competition
for the 200] was extremely tight,” he said. “The difference between eighth
and sixteenth was half a second. Between first and eighth it was about a
second. I was seventh, and the guy who was in ninth was two-tenths behind
me.  It almost comes down to good fortune
sometimes.”

The results were reversed for Whiting and Hallman in the 500-yard freestyle. The two
faced off in the preliminaries with similar seed times, yet Hallman placed
twelfth in the consolation final, while Whiting claimed All-American status by
placing seventh.

As a
whole, though, the P-P and CMS teams struggled to remain competitive with their record-breaking opponents.

“It
was an interesting meet because Division III is getting so much faster,” Whiting
said. “Their national records have stood for years, and in every event those
records were beaten by multiple people in some cases. There were certain
records that were just shattered by 5 seconds, 6 seconds in some events.”  

Taking second in all five relays and setting a new SCIAC record in the
800-yard freestyle relay, the Athenas wrapped up the NCAAs in 16th place, their second straight top-20 finish. Their 60.5 points were less than 40 points from the top 10. 

Despite sending just Kelsey Thomas PO ’18 (1650-yard freestyle) and one women’s 800-yard freestyle relay to the meet, P-P put forth an impressive performance. The ever-improving Sagehen women placed
thirteenth in their relay, and Thomas placed 23rd in the 1650. 

The Stags thrived in Shenandoah, placing fifth overall based on the performance
of their All-American relays and individuals. They earned All-American honors in all of their relays aside from
the 800 free, and Matthew Williams CM ’17 and Alex Poltash CM ’16 earned them in
their individual events. Williams was an All-American in the 100-yard backstroke,
narrowly missing the podium by placing fourth. Poltash placed fifth in the 50-yard free
and earned All-American in the 100-yard free with a third-place finish.

The meet concluded swimming careers for the seniors, and according to Whiting, is reflective of the sport as a whole. In swimming, the hard work and hours that athletes put into training is distilled into fractions of a second. 

“It’s
weird thinking that for as much as we train, as much emotion and hard work and
pain that we put into the pool for hours and hours and hours of every season,
it just comes down to hundredths of a second sometimes,” Whiting said.  “A lot of us swim because we like to train; we
like to push ourselves to our fullest potential, and racing is almost a
derivative of that. It’s fun to be able to race and put all that hard work from
the season to the test.”

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