Swimmers take fourth at conference

By Joann Groff
Assistant Sports Editor 

Four new school records. A fourth place finish in the prestigious Pacific Collegiate Swimming Championships.

With the end of their season, there is a promising taste of what the swimmers and divers of Pepperdine are capable of in the future.

The year’s regular season ended with the PCS Championships, a 13-team, three-day meet held at Belmont Plaza in Long Beach Feb. 20-22.

Senior Michelle Barker, last year’s PCSC “Diver of the Year,” led the Waves diving team, finishing in second place in the one-meter diving competition for the second consecutive season. California State University Bakersfield’s Laura Lafranchise beat out Barker’s 441.75 points with 466.35.

“Michelle Barker graduating is going to be a big loss to this team,” Head Coach Nick Rodionoff said. “She made NCAA qualifying points 10 times. She’s going to be very hard to replace.”

Barker said she is not only happy with her and the team’s performance, but wouldn’t change one bump along the way.

“I thought we dove the best we have all season,” Barker said. “I felt really strong. I wouldn’t change one thing about the meet because I feel like I did everything I could to dive to the best of my potential.”

Barker will leave behind sophomores Emily Andrews and Maggie Lane, who placed fourth and seventh respectively.

“The divers really dominated all year long,” Rodionoff said. “They continued to do so. That is a really strong bunch. They’ll have to step it up a notch to fill Michelle’s shoes, but that’s what it’s all about.”

From the platforms to the lanes, both the swimmers and the divers turned heads, breaking records at a tough four-day meet where the girls never seem to let down.

“Well, usually this meet is just so exhausting I can’t wait until it’s over,” Rodionoff said. “This year it was so much fun. It was a major high to see all the girls swim so well. They just kept getting better and better as the meet went on.”

The Waves’ relays pulled through at the meet, providing for a lot of points toward Pepperdine’s finish. While grabbing a third place finish in the 200-yard freestyle relay, senior Erin Schindler and rookies Megan Kelly, Ketrina Lemmen and Nicole Okuna recorded the fourth-fastest time in Pepperdine swimming history (1:37.60).

In the 400-medley relay, Kelly, Lemmen and Okuna joined junior Stephanie Hammond to break a school record, touching in at 3:56.07 — good enough for fourth place.

“These swimmers are all clutch,” Rodionoff said. “They come through when they have to. A great example of that was the 100 free at conference. It was the last event of the last day. Erin won her consolation round, Megan Kelly took second overall. Those were some big time swims at the end of four exhausting days.”

Along with Kelly’s impressive finish in the 100-yard freestyle, she also touched in at fifth in the 200-yard freestyle. But she still sees room for improvement in her future.

“I did well, but not as well as I wanted to,” Kelly said. “I got food poisoning the night before my 200-yard individual medley race. I had wanted to get a really fast time in that one. I really want to make NCAA next year.”

Junior Lindsey Krusen swam the 400-yard individual medley in the second fastest time in school history (4:34.64), earning the third place spot. Krusen also welcomed her third-place finish in the 200-yard butterfly.

Lemmen was also a third-place finisher in the 100-yard backstroke after coming in at 58.27 seconds, the third-best time in school history.

“I was excited with my 100-yard backstroke,” Lemmen said. “To take top three as a freshman was great. The relays were also a highlight. It’s so exciting to be part of a team like that. It really pumps you up.”

Okuna had a school record performance when she came in at 56.42 seconds in the 100-yard butterfly, taking fourth place. Okuna also matched that finish when she competed in the 200-yard butterfly, capturing the Pepperdine’s fourth best time in the event.

“I’m happy with where I am, but it’s nowhere near where I can be.” Okuna said. “All the girls on the team reached our goal, to do well at conference. We gave it our best.”

And their best proved to be quite effective. With a fourth place finish in a dominating league, the Waves showed their PCSC competitors that they should never be overlooked.

“We expected this year to finish strong,” Rodionoff said. “Our new talent made us even better than expected . . .  When the competition was tough the kids responded.”