ST. PETERS, Mo. --- Freshman swimmer Mary Hanson opened the final night of the NAIA Championships by showing off her pipes with the national anthem. She and her teammates later closed it with a CBU record third place finish the 400 free relay (3:28.91), sealing the school’s fifth women’s NAIA team championship.
The CBU women (616 points), who Head Coach Rick Rowland said could be the best in the country over the last 12 years, were hardly challenged all week en route to a decisive win over runner-up Fresno Pacific (459 points).
“This is the way we wanted to go out,” said Rowland, who was named NAIA Women’s Coach of the Year for the third time in his career (fifth including men). “We talked about it all year...We feel good about all the work we put in. All these kids are up at 5 a.m. while everyone else is snoozing. They pay the price to get here, so it’s nice to see them celebrate.”
And celebrate they did, in the typical fashion of a victory dive, swim, and dance.
The women won three individual championships during the week, and set the NAIA record in the 800 free relay on opening night. On the way to the title they broke two NAIA records and 10 CBU records.
“It was a total team effort. From the 16th place finisher to the winner,” said Rowland. “Ben [Wahlman] did a heck of a job coaching. Our divers are a big reason why we brought the title back.”
Jamie Flynn won the women’s three-meter board on Friday and finished runner-up in the one-meter on Wednesday. In both events CBU had three top seven finishers.
During Saturday’s events the women had no first place winners, but did nab a couple of runner-up finishes.
In the women’s 200 fly three Lancers placed in the top-10. Adriana Quezada was second with a CBU record of 2:01.86; Hazel Castillo grabbed third place (2:04.08), while Brittany Blakenship finished in ninth (2:10.51). Anna Megli was DQ’d in the championship heat.
Hanson broke the CBU record in her second place swim in the 100 free (50.53). In her first NAIA Championship meet she won one individual title (100 back), broke five CBU records (100 back, 100 free, 200 free, 800 medley relay, and 400 free relay), won a relay championship (800 medley), and broke two NAIA records (100 back, 800 medley relay). Top that all off with a rendition of the national anthem in front of a packed Recplex and you have a legitimate freshman phenom.
Stefanie Olson finished runner-up in the 1650 free (17:06.04) in the opening swim of the night. Megli placed eighth with a time of 17:49.06.
In the women’s 200 back Natalie Heihn grabbed eighth place (2:09.02) while Hannah Braun got 10th (2:07.99). Gina Rhue finished in ninth place in the women’s 200 breast, winning the consolation heat with a time of 2:26.94.
Megan Leckey had a Joe Namath moment, predicting to break her personal best of 54.00 in the 100 free. She came through with her promise with a time of 53.74; good for 12th place.
“It was very exciting to see not just us winning, but representing the school well, representing God well,” said Athletic Director Dr. Micah Parker. “I’m happy for Coach Rowland to be able to go out with a championship. He’s had a great run, it’s been great to see.”
The CBU men finished runner-up (582 points) for the second consecutive year (eighth in school history) as the Fresno Pacific Sunbirds (698.5 points) were simply too strong throughout the week.
Sergio Molina broke the NAIA record in the 200 breast with a time of 1:59.10, while Matthew Chong finished in seventh (2:05.34). Molina also won the 100 breast on Thursday.
Vicente Andrade won CBU’s first title of the night with a time of 1:48.51 in the 200 back. The win was Andrade’s fourth NAIA championship. Robert Nichols placed fifth in the race(1:51.15), while Taylor Kile (1:54.00) and Nathan Johnson (1:55.02) finished in 11th and 14th place respectively.
Ronan Garrec finished runner-up in the men’s 200 fly (1:48.35) and Daniel Heihn placed 14th (1:54.53) in their final race as Lancers.
Chris Toy finished fifth in the 100 free (45.73), as Simon Fraser’s David Hibberd broke the NAIA record (43.94). Hibberd was named men’s swimmer of the meet.
Kevin Sellars (fifth; 15:57.18) fell in the 1650 free to SCAD’s Alex Graudins' NAIA record breaking time of 15:31.38. The previous mark of 15:36.18 stood for 22 years.
It was CBU’s final NAIA Championship meet as the school has been accepted into the NCAA Div. II.
The Lancers have four men’s NAIA national championships in school history.
Trevor Graifman, Hannah Braun, and Toy were named NAIA Scholar-Athletes at the beginning of the night.
The women’s victory is CBU’s 20th NAIA team championship.