Bearcats Swimming in Depth

SALEM: With a solid core of returning swimmers and a batch of versatile, talented freshmen swimmers, the Willamette University swim team looks to be even stronger this year as they work to battle their way up the Northwest Conference standings.

On the men’s side, Eric Swinn, an honorable mention All American last year, returns to lead a team packed with experience and fresh energy. Along with Swinn, Coach Al Stephenson’s squad returns juniors Avery Robinson and Owen Williams. Sophomore Bennet Herbison and transfer student Geoff Kruse, along with four talented freshmen will aid the Bearcats men’s swimming team.

On the women’s side, Nadia Markovchick returns for her senior. She’ll get able help from seniors Courtney Casey, and Sarah Whittle, along with juniors Emily Conway and Adrienne Davich and sophomores Amanda Dickson, Jessica Lee, Sarah Miller, Alice Pederson, Elise Tuttle and Lea Witkowsky.

But it is the freshmen and their versatility that has Stephenson excited.

“This is a great bunch of kids and they are really coming together as a team,” said Stephenson. “We’ve lost some key performers, but what we have added back gives us great depth and versatility. We’ve got a good core of returnees and that extra energy and excitement that the freshmen provide.”

Here’s how Stephenson ranks his top swimmers:

Freestyle:

Women: Markovchick will handle much of the short sprint duty. Lee and Tuttle will provide depth and versatility here. Tuttle can swim anything from the 100 free to the 1000 free. Look for Lee to swim the 200/500 free.

Men: Swinn will split time between freestyle and backstroke events. Transfer Kruse will be a big help here, along with Owen Williams and freshman Cason Schmidt.

Fly:

Women: Markovchick will handle the short fly events, along with freshmen Kate Miller and Becca Fischer.

Men: Avery Robinson returns here for the Bearcats with freshman David Sluss.

Backstroke:

Women: Jessica Lee and Courtney Casey are the returning veterans here. Freshman Shanley Roxburgh will give the Bearcats some strength in the distance backstroke events.

Men: Swinn is the clear leader of the Bearcats in this event. A state champion backstroker, it is this event in which Swinn was named Honorable Mention All American. Freshman Graham Smith backs up Swinn in the backstroke events.

Breaststroke:

Women: Kate Miller, Becca Fischer and freshman Maggie Hake provide strength and depth for the Bearcats in the breastroke events.

Men: Avery Robinson and freshman Kei Otawa will handle duties for the Bearcats men in this event.

Individual Medley:

Women: Fischer, Kate Miller and Amanda Dickson will split time in the IM events.

Men: Swinn, Otawa and Robinson will double up on IM events for the men’s squad.

NWC at a Glance:

Things look similar for the Northwest Conference on both the men’s and women’s sides as University of Puget Sound and Whitworth look like the teams to beat. But third place is up for grabs and the Bearcats should have a shot at improving on last year’s fourth place finish for the women and fifth place finish for the men.