Six Westmont swimmers earned NAIA All-American honors on Wednesday at the NAIA National Championships in Columbus, Ga.
First, Morgan Bienias, Ella Chaisson, Bailey Lemmon and Daisy Marquardt finished eighth in the 200 yard medley relay. Then Olivia Garrison, Bienias, Emma Bustamante and Marquardt did the same in the 800 yard freestyle. The top eight finishers are named All-Americans.
The NAIA changed relay qualification procedures this year that made participation in the event a bit more challenging. Last year, teams could qualify by beating relay qualification standards. This year, however, there were no qualification standards for relays. Instead, participants could only qualify for individual events. Then, each coach could put together relay teams from those who had qualified, assuming his or her school had enough qualifiers. The result was that a coach might have to include some swimmers who were not as proficient in the event.
Despite that reality, Westmont swimmer not only finished high enough to earn the All-American honors, but in the process broke the school record in both events.
“We did not know who to put on that relay,” acknowledge Westmont’s head coach Jill Jones Lin about the 200 yard individual medley. “We don’t have our typical relay swimmers to be able to pick from. So, we had to be a little more creative and think through all possible combinations. We hoped that it would be good and that Daisy could pull through. She hasn’t sprinted all season because she has focused more on the distance stroke events. It was awesome. Getting the first race out of the way is really important. We have been waiting and getting ready for the meet to start. It is finally here and this was a great way to set the tone.”
The race was particularly gratifying to Lemmon, a senior, who was unable to compete in her sophomore and junior seasons due to an injury.
“It is honestly exciting and I am proud of making it to this week, especially since it is our last year in the NAIA,” said Lemmon. “We had more people qualify this year than we thought. Being able to be an All-American alongside my teammates is an honor. I am proud of all of us for making it this far.
“The 50 yard butterfly (the third leg of the race) is my favorite relay to do. I was excited to swim with my goggles on (as compared to conference) and see how fast I could go. I think that was my fastest split for all four years.”
The Warrior quartet shaved exactly one-half second off the previous record, finishing in a time of 1:48.24.
In the 800 yard freestyle relay, the Warriors beat the previous record by more than four seconds, posting a time of 7:48.65.
”In general, they have all swam that event, but we have not focused on it in training,” noted Jones Lin. For them to come together and get a school record and get eighth place by 0.03 is pretty amazing. It was awesome for Morgan who just swam her last 200 freestyle ever. She was able to end on such a high note and was so close to her lifetime best time for her split.
“They all swam with a lot of heart. They went out really fast and held on as hard as they could in the end. It was a really good swim.”