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Mesford Stuns 50 Free Field and PLU Records Fall

Joseph Parker and Chase Mesford
Joseph Parker and Chase Mesford

FEDERAL WAY - Chase Mesford shocked the field with a record-setting victory in the men's 50 freestyle, and Joseph Parker wiped away the oldest school record on the books to highlight an outstanding opening day for Pacific Lutheran at the Northwest Conference Swimming Championships being held at the Weyerheauser King County Aquatic Center.

As expected, Whitworth is well on its way to its 10th straight men's conference championship with 251 points, followed by Whitman with 154, Puget Sound 153, PLU 114, Pacific 80, Linfield 69, Willamette 53 and Lewis & Clark 41.

What wasn't expected, frankly, was Mesford's record-setting swim in the 50 freestyle. He came into the conference meet ranked sixth in the event and this morning swam the fourth-fastest time in the preliminary, 21.74. In tonight's final he got off to a strong start in lane 6 and turned at the 25-yard mark in a close battle with pre-meet favorite Aaron Vaccaro from Whitworth and Karl Mering from Whitman. Mesford touched first in a school record 21.31, taking down the old record of 21.46 set by Mark LeMaster in 1990. Vaccaro placed second in 21.45, followed by Mering in 21.46.

Coach Sellman's first response? "Where did that come from?" he said at poolside. And then he answered his own question. "Chase's win was exciting and was probably the most exciting thing of the night.  It was unexpected going in, but he has been training so hard and his confidence has been skyrocketing all season long.

"He was excited to see the number 1 by his name (on the scoreboard) and the school record as well."

Mesford's victory was the first event win by a PLU swimmer since Jay Jones won three events back in 2009.

Parker's record came in the opening backstroke leg of the 400 medley relay when he touched the wall in 53.09, shattering the former record of 53.61 set by Bruce Wakefield back in 1977. Sellman had said before the meet that Parker could take down the backstroke record, and the freshman swimmer made a prophet out of his head coach.

In addition, the PLU team of Mesford, Rayan Carter, Parker and Basil Whaley broke the 200 freestyle relay record with a time of 1:26.85. The former record, 1:26.89, was set by the team of Fumi Moriyama, Mike Elwin, David Viau and Sellman in 1996.

"All four of them fired out and had great swims," Sellman said of the record-setting relay swimmers.

In other men's results, Patrick Opie placed eighth in 500 freestyle final in a time of 4:50.26. Corban Elliott, swimming in the consolation final, got ninth-place points with a 4:49.04, and Justin Thornley was 14th in 4:56.41.

Andre Tacuyan finished 13th in the 200 individual medley with a time of 2:01.98, while Parker added points by placing 12th in the 50 free, clocking 22.14.

In the final event, the 400 medley relay, the team of Parker, Carter, Jacob Deines and Mesford placed fourth in 3:34.22.

Whitworth is out to the first-day lead in the women's competition with 200 points, followed by Puget Sound with 182, Whitman 141, Pacific 92, PLU 91, Lewis & Clark 69, Linfield 68, and Willamette 50.

The PLU women's relay teams had strong races, both finishing fourth and within a second of school record times. The 200 free relay team of Michelle Hogan, Elizabeth Althauser, Kristin Neuneker and Toni Castillo finished in 1:40.52, while the 400 medley relay team of Darla Avis, Rachel Althauser, Castillo and Hogan clocked 4:04.04.

Kina Ackerman placed eighth in the 200 IM in a time of 2:14.38, and Rachel Althauser added points by placing 12th in 2:16.60.

The Lutes had three placers in the 50 free, Castillo finishing seventh in 24.84, Nueneker 15th in 25.76, and Hogan 16th in 25.80.

"Great evening session, we swam lights out," Sellman said of his team's overall performance. The women had great swims all the way through. I just couldn't be happier with how the night went."

Competition continues on Saturday with preliminary swims starting at 10 a.m. and finals beginning at 6 p.m.

- PLU -