Otawa Finishes Third, Schmit is Sixth, in Men's 50-Yard Freestyle Finals at NWC Championships

WALLA WALLA, WASH. -- Willamette University senior swimmers Kei Otawa (Moscow, ID/Moscow HS) and Cason Schmit (Oakland, CA/Bishop O’Dowd HS) placed third and sixth, respectively, in the men’s 50-yard freestyle finals, on the first day of the Northwest Conference Championships, Friday, Feb. 9 at Whitman College. Otawa and Schmit helped the Bearcats score 86 team points on the day, placing Willamette sixth in the current standings. The NWC Championships will continue on Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 10-11.

Otawa’s time in the 50-yard freestyle was 21.67 seconds, as he recorded his best time of the season. He finished just seven-one hundredths of a second behind Bret Schluederberg from the University of Puget Sound, who took second place at 21.60. Schluederberg also edged Otawa by the slimmest of margins for second place in the preliminaries, 21.89 to 21.90. The event was won by Dom Rieniets of Linfield College in 21.24 seconds. Schmit clocked in at 22:39.

The Willamette women’s team concluded the day with 33 points. Brittany Thiemens (Jr., Bellevue, WA/Bellevue HS) led the Bearcat women with a 12th place finish in the 50-yard freestyle. Thiemens recorded a time of 26.35 in the consolation finals.

Willamette’s men took fifth place in the 200-yard freestyle relay. Otawa swam the first leg and was followed by Matthew Tanigawa (Fr., Kailua, HI/Baptist Academy), Kevin Tangeman (Fr., Sherwood, OR/Sherwood HS) and Schmit. The Bearcats recorded a time of 1:30.63 in the event, which was won by Linfield at 1:26.64.

Otawa and Schmit were the only Bearcats to reach the finals on Friday, but five Willamette swimmers -- three women and two men -- advanced from the preliminaries into the consolation finals. In addition to Thiemens’ 12th place finish in the 50-yard freestyle, the Bearcat women also received 14th place from Shanley Roxburgh (Waipahu, HI/Punahou School) in the 200-yard individual medley and 16th place from Whitney Pryce (Fr., Glastonbury, CT/Glastonbury HS) in the 500-yard freestyle. The men’s team benefited from a 15th place finish by Tanigawa in the 200-yard individual medley and a 16th place finish by Greg Henselman (Jr., Corvallis, OR/Corvallis HS) in the 500-yard freestyle.

Linfield topped the men’s team standings with 185 points. The University of Puget Sound was second at 158, and was follow by Whitworth College with 156. Fourth place was held by Whitman College with 107 points, Pacific Lutheran University held fifth place with 95 points, while Willamette was sixth at 86 points and Lewis & Clark College was seventh with 76 points. Pacific University was ninth with six points.

The victory by Linfield in the 200-yard freestyle relay, plus the win by Rieniets in the 50-yard freestyle, helped the Wildcats take their 27-point lead. Linfield also received another first place finish when Kevin Caple won the 200-yard individual medley with a time of 1:55.90.

In the women’s standings, Whitworth held first place with 212 points. Puget Sound was second at 199, Lewis & Clark was third at 120 and Whitman was fourth at 107. Linfield owned fifth place with 99 points, while Pacific Lutheran was sixth with 64 points, Pacific was seventh with 57 points and Willamette was eighth with 33 points.

Whitworth led the women’s competition by winning both relays and all three individual events. Whitworth’s 200-yard freestyle relay team set a new NWC Championship record with a time of 1:37.67.