FEDERAL WAY - It was a big night Sunday for the Pacific Lutheran men's swimming team as the Lutes placed third at the Northwest Conference Swimming Championships that came to a close after a three-day run at the Weyerhaeuser King County Aquatic Center.
While it was a given that Whitworth would win its 10th straight NWC men's title, the battle for second, third and fourth figured to be a tight one between Pacific Lutheran, Whitman and Puget Sound. Whitworth indeed won with 796 points, followed by Whitman with 572, PLU with 500, and Puget Sound fourth with 480. Rounding out the team scoring were Pacific 255, Linfield 231, Willamette 163 and Lewis & Clark 153.
Not only did the Lutes place third, they also finished one spot ahead of crosstown rival Puget Sound, marking the first time that PLU has defeated the Loggers at the conference meet in either the men's or women's division since UPS came back to the Northwest Conference during the 1996-97 season.
"It's a special thing," PLU head coach Matt Sellman said of his team's third-place finish. "It shows how much in the last 18 months this program has accomplished and where we are going."
Puget Sound returned to the top of the NWC women's standings, ending Whitworth's two-year title run by scoring 623 to 606 for the Pirates. Rounding out the women's scoring were Whitman 506, Pacific 375, PLU 327, Lewis & Clark 303, Linfield 206, and Willamette 150.
The 200 backstroke was a big event for the PLU men as Corban Elliott placed third and Joseph Parker fifth to pick up some big points. Elliott, who established a new school record with a time of 1:55.30 in the morning qualifying, clocked 1:55.84 during the final. Parker, who twice this meet established school records in the 100 back, closed quickly in the final 25 yards to touch the wall in 1:57.77. Elliott broke the former record of 1:56.23 set by Richard Cromwell in 2001.
The Lutes moved past Puget Sound for good in the first final of the night, the 1650 freestyle, when Patrick Opie placed fourth in 16:37.27, followed in seventh by Justin Thornley with a time of 17:12.07. Adding team points were Ramy Carter and Michael Brasgalla, 12th and 13th, respectively.
Chase Mesford, who won the 50 freestyle on Friday night, eclipsed the 48-second mark in the 100 freestyle final, finishing fifth in a time of 47.98. Basil Whaley placed 11th in 48.73 to add to PLU's total.
In the race against Puget Sound, the 200 breaststroke was a game-breaker for PLU as the Lutes scored 40 points to just five for the Loggers. Dan Pecack placed sixth in 2:18.26, Rayan Carter was seventh in 2:21.13, Thomas Hale 10th in 2:23.92, Michael Brasgalla 11th in 2:25.98, and Alex Dassoff 15th in 2:27.43.
That gave the Lutes enough of a cushion to survive Puget Sound's strong finish in the 200 butterfly. Leading the Lutes in that race was Jacob Deines, who was seventh in a time of 1:58.67. Other PLU placers were Jake Dacus in ninth, Phil Rempe in 13th and Andre Tacuyan in 16th.
In the final men's race, the 400 freestyle relay, Pacific Lutheran's team of Whaley, Opie, Parker and Mesford placed fourth in 3:13.66.
"Obviously it's important to get lots of guys in the top eight, but great teams have depth. You've got to have a full squad going great things," Sellman said.
PLU sophomore Kina Ackerman continued her outstanding 2012 meet, placing third in the 1650 freestyle and going sub-18 minutes, clocking 17:59.60. Ackerman also placed third in a school record time in the 400 individual medley on Saturday after placing eighth in the 200 IM on Friday. Taylor Gonzales placed 15th and Elyse Bevers 16th in the women's 1650 freestyle.
Toni Castillo raced in her third championship final on Sunday, placing eighth in the 100 freestyle in 54.40. She was the 100 butterfly winner on Saturday and was seventh in the 50 free on Friday. Senior Elizabeth Althauser closed out her career by placing 15th in the 100 free.
Darla Avis, who Sunday morning missed qualifying for the 200 backstroke championship final by less than one-tenth of a second, easily won the consolation final with a time of 2:14.10, good for ninth overall. Her time would have given her sixth place in the championship final. She was followed to the wall by Haley Cooper in 2:18.14, and Mackenzie Carlson placed 13th in the consolation final.
Also scoring points for the PLU women were Rachel Althauser who finished 15th in the 200 breaststroke, and Emma Thompson, Elyse Bevers and Joanna Griffiths, 10th, 12th and 16th respectively, in the 200 butterfly.
The Lutes closed their meet by placing fifth in the 400 freestyle relay in a time of 3:42.39.
Pacific's Amanda Clark was named the Outstanding Female Swimmer of the Meet and her coach, Alec Webster, was voted on as NWC Women's Coach of the Year.
Whitman swept the men's awards, Galen Sollom-Brotherton named the Outstanding Male Swimmer of the Meet and Jenn Blomme the NWC Men's Coach of the Year.
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