CHAMPIONS: Lutes outswim opponents

Posted on Feb 21 2014 - 12:38pm by Sam Horn, Sports Editor

PLU NCAA III NWC Championships_02

The Northwest Conference is home to a new women’s swimming champion. Not since 1996 has the Pacific Lutheran University women’s swim team won the NWC title.

PLU was able to edge out defending champion Whitworth by two points for a nail-biting victory in the Weyerhaeuser King County Aquatic Center.

PLU scored 618.5 points, while the Pirates from Whitworth tallied 616.5 points. The slight margin of victory is the second closest in NWC history, trailing only the 1-point margin for Willamette over Linfield in 1994.

“I was so impressed with the toughness and attitude of our team,” head coach Matt Sellman said in a press conference. “This was a hard, tough win that came from every person tied to our program — athletes, coaches, managers, trainers. We are so proud to be Lutes and to have won this championship as a complete team, top to bottom. We weren’t perfect, but we were special.”

By achieving the lofty feat of winning conference, Sellman was awarded with his second consecutive NWC Coach of the Year honor.

Sellman’s personal trophy case will need more space, as this is his ninth coaching honor. Sellman earned two other NWC Coach of the Year honors and five Capital Athletic Conference Coach of the Year honors.

Heading into the 400-freestyle relay, the final relay of the meet, the Lutes held an eight-point lead over Whitworth. First-year Morgan Commander, sophomore Hanna Armstrong, first-year Darcie Booth and sophomore Melissa Dean finished in second place to pick up 34 points, essentially locking up the impressive victory.

In addition to helping seal the win for the Lutes, Dean set an individual record at the meet, which the Weyerhaeuser King County Aquatic Center hosted. Dean broke a 25-year-old record in the 100 freestyle with a time of 53.27 to take third in the event. Karen Hanson previously held the record with a time of 53.31 in 1989.

Sophomore Natasha Sioda also broke a record herself. The Curtis High School grad took third in the 200 backstroke with a time of 2:06.0 to break Hanson’s 1992 record of 2:06.01 by one-hundredth of a second.

Whitman (559 points), Pacific (366.5), Puget Sound (348.5), Lewis & Clark (300), Linfield (219) and Willamette (166) followed PLU and Whitworth.