Willamette Swimming Season Outlook for 2013-14

Action Gets Underway with NWC Sprint Pentathlon and NWC Relays this Weekend

By Timothy Walsh, Assistant Athletics Communications Director

SALEM, ORE. -- The Willamette University swimming teams will open the 2013-14 season this weekend at the NWC Sprint Pentathlon and the NWC Relays. Head Coach Leslie Shevlin begins her fifth year leading the Bearcats.

The Sprint Pentathlon will be hosted by Pacific Lutheran University in Parkland, Wash., on Friday, Nov. 1. The NWC Relays will be held at the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, Wash., on Saturday, Nov. 2.

As the Bearcats prepare for the start of the season, they welcome ten new recruits to the roster, along with a strong group of returning athletes.

Willamette's combined roster this year features six seniors: Chris Whitehead (Sherwood, OR/Sherwood HS), Nick Barton (Oregon City, OR/Clackamas HS), Susie Barnes (Santa Fe, NM/Desert Academy), Lindsay Clark (Juneau, AK/Juneau-Douglas HS), Hope Nelson (Providence, RI/South Kingstown HS), and Erin Parkinson (Everson, WA/Ferndale HS).

Bearcat Women's Team

Nelson and Parkinson are the two standout seniors on the women's team, and both scored points for the Bearcats last year in the distance freestyle. Nelson, who has junior eligibility, is expected to lead Willamette in the middle distance freestyle, while Parkinson will add depth in the breaststroke.

Barnes, the Bearcats' second athlete with senior eligibility, will participate in the freestyle and breaststroke events. Clark, a senior academically, will add important depth in the backstroke and middle distance free events. 

Willamette's juniors are anchored by Annette Marinello (Corvallis, OR/Philomath HS), who finished in the NWC's top ten in three different events at the 2013 NWC Championships and helped set three new school records last year.

Marinello, who has sophomore eligibility, finished sixth in the 400 I.M., eighth in the 200-yard breaststroke, and eighth in the 100-yard breaststroke. She was part of the Bearcats' record-setting 400 medley relay race team, and set individual records in both the 100-yard and 200-yard breaststroke events.

Kersey Bars (Springfield, OR/Springfield HS) and Summer Elias (Elko, NV/Elko HS) are also junior swimmers for Willamette. Bars competes in the backstroke and freestyle events, while Elias participates in the breaststroke.

Returning sophomore swimmers Michaela Zuber (Sacramento, CA/Sheldon HS) and Malia Santos (Kailua-Kona, HI/Kealakehe HS) will attempt to break into the NWC's top 16 in the backstroke and butterfly, respectively. Both have the ability to sprint and swim middle distance.

Other sophomores Jessica Beach (Salem, OR/West Salem HS), Leah Freeborn (Federal Way, WA/Todd Beamer HS), Cara Jack (Redwood City, CA/Woodside HS), and Christa Rohrbach (Concord, CA/Clayton Valley HS) provide important depth in multiple events.

Emily DiNatale (Fr., Boulder, CO/Peak to Peak Charter School), Michaelyn Laughlin (Fr., San Jose, CA/Leland HS), and Cassidy Linden (Fr., Albany, CA/Albany HS) will add even more depth as Willamette continues to build into a competitive program in the NWC.

Bearcat Men's Team

Whitehead is the lone senior on the Bearcat men's team. He has scored for the Bearcats at conference every year, placing 14th in the men's 200-yard breaststroke in 2013. He placed 13th in the 100-yard breaststroke in 2012, and 13th in the 200-yard breaststroke in 2011.

Barton, an academic senior with sophomore eligibility, brings depth in the sprint freestyle races and the middle distance freestyle events.

Juniors Zander Le Bel (Dallas, TX/Richardson HS) and Alex Burkhart (Los Gatos, CA/Los Gatos HS) will lead the way in the men's distance events. Both scored at last year's NWC Championships, with LeBel's time of 17:19.05 good enough for eighth place in the men's 1,650-yard freestyle.

Burkhart achieved a time of 17:24.30 to finish 10th overall in that same race.

Three sophomores are back after gaining significant experience for the Bearcats last season: Alex Guffey (Seattle, WA/Roosevelt HS), Andrew Lum (Honolulu, HI/Punahou School), and Colin Sievers (Lynnwood, WA/Bishop Blanchet HS). 

Guffey, arguably Willamette's greatest threat for points, earned a fifth place finish in the men's 200-yard freestyle at the 2013 NWC Championships. He also placed seventh in the finals of the men's 100-yard freestyle with a time of 47.76 seconds, and finished 15th in the 500-yard freestyle.

Lum, who will compete in both butterfly events, looks set to advance in the conference standings, while Sievers will focus on the freestyle events.

Coach Shevlin has brought in a heralded freshman class this year, led by one of the top recruits in the state of Oregon, Alika Masei (Salem, OR/West Salem HS). Masei will lead the Bearcats' medley relay and should stand out in all of the backstroke events.

Fellow freshman Shelby Merrill (Thousand Oaks, CA/Westlake HS) will make an immediate impact in the distance freestyle events, and Dan Aki (Fr., Union City, CA/James Logan HS) will add depth in the butterfly events. Joshua Bumgarner (Fr., Walla Walla, WA/Walla Walla HS) will provide depth in the breaststroke events, and add much needed depth in the individual medley.

Jason Bayang (Wahiawa, HI/Hoala School) and Ian Robinson (Portland, OR/La Salle Catholic College Prep) round out Willamette's freshman class.

Schedule Highlights

Willamette will take a winter training trip to San Diego, Calif., from Jan. 2-9. The Bearcats also will make the short trip to the CAT Senior Open in Corvallis, Ore., on Dec. 7. Willamette will play all seven NWC opponents in dual matches and will close out the regular season at the NWC Championships in Federal Way, Wash. from Feb. 14-16.

The home opener at the WU Natatorium is set for Friday, Nov. 8 at 6 p.m. (PDT) against defending NWC champion Whitworth University. Willamette will host Whitman College on Saturday, Nov. 9 at 1 p.m.

Chris Whitehead, has scored points for Willamette at the last three NWC Championships.

Chris Whitehead, has scored points for Willamette at the last three NWC Championships.

Junior Hope Nelson will lead the Bearcats in the middle distance freestyle this year.

Junior Hope Nelson will lead the Bearcats in the middle distance freestyle this year.