Willamette Swimming Season Outlook for 2012-13

Action gets underway with NWC Sprint Pentathlon and NWC Relays this Weekend

By Robert McKinney, Athletics Communications Director, (503) 370-6110

SALEM, ORE. -- The Willamette University swimming teams will open the 2012-13 season this weekend at the NWC Sprint Pentathlon and the NWC Relays. Head Coach Leslie Shevlin begins her fourth year leading the Bearcats.

The Sprint Pentathlon will be hosted by Pacific University in Forest Grove, Ore., on Saturday, Oct. 27. The NWC Relays will be held at Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Ore., on Sunday, Oct. 28.

As the Bearcats prepare for the start of the season, they are looking forward to the impact of a large freshman class that includes nine new swimmers. There are also three new sophomores in the lineup, along with a solid group returning players. Willamette still features two relatively young teams, with just three seniors. The seniors are Kayla Kosaki (Hilo, HI/Waiakea HS), Ian McGahan (Tacoma, WA/Stadium HS) and Austin Williams (University Place, WA/Curtis HS).

Bearcat Women's Team

Kosaki will lead the women's team as a captain and a standout swimmer in the butterfly and backstroke events. She is the only senior on the women's team.

Willamette has a strong junior class, that includes returning swimmers Susie Barnes (Santa Fe, NM/Desert Academy), Hope Nelson (Providence, RI/South Kingstown HS) and Erin Parkinson (Everson, WA/Ferndale HS).

Barnes will swim the sprint freestyle and breaststroke events. Nelson, who has sophomore eligibility, will lead the way in the distance freestyle races.

Parkinson returns for Willamette following a very successful competition at the 2012 Northwest Conference Championships, as she finished in the top eight in two of her three individual events. Parkinson was sixth in the 1,650-yard freestyle and took eighth place in the 100-yard breaststroke. She will be looking to climb in the NWC rankings this season.

Returning sophomore swimmers, Kersey Bars (Springfield, OR/Springfield HS) and Summer Elias (Elko, NV/Elko HS) will be joined by newcomers Jessica Beach (Salem, OR/West Salem HS) and Annette Marinello (Corvallis, OR/Philomath HS). Beach and Marinello have freshman eligibility.

Bars will focus on the backstroke events and Elias will be one of the top breaststroke swimmers for the Bearcats. Beach and Marinello will add depth in the breaststroke, and Marinello will seek success in the 200-yard and 400-yard individual medley races.

Freshmen on the women's team are Leah Freeborn (Federal Way, WA/Todd Beamer HS), Cara Jack (Redwood City, CA/Woodside HS), Christa Rohrbach (Concord, CA/Clayton Valley HS), Malia Santos (Kailua-Kona, HI/Kealakehe HS) and Michaela Zuber (Sacramento, CA/Sheldon HS).

Freeborn, Jack and Rohrbach will contribute in the freestyle, breaststroke and individual medley events. Zuber and Santos are capable of making an immediate impact in the backstroke and the butterfly, respectively.

Bearcat Men's Team

Seniors for the Willamette men's team are McGahan and Williams. McGahan is in his fourth season on the team. He has shown great improvement in the butterfly events and hopes to continue his success this year. Williams, who has junior eligibility, will return from Rome, Italy, during the spring semester and will add depth in the distance freestyle races at the NWC Championships.

Chris Whitehead (Sherwood, OR/Sherwood HS) returns to WU for his junior season. He will provide leadership for the Bearcats, while seeking to continue his gradually improvement in the NWC in the breaststroke events.

Nick Barton (Oregon City, OR/Clackamas HS), a transfer from the University of Washington, is a junior competing in his first season of collegiate swimming. He brings depth in the sprint freestyle races and the middle distance freestyle events.

Four sophomores a back after gaining significant experience for the Bearcats last season. They are Aran Johnson (Seattle, WA/Garfield HS), Alex Burkhart (Los Gatos, CA/Los Gatos HS), Zander Le Bel (Dallas, TX/Richardson HS) and Sean Piper (Normandy Park, WA/John F. Kennedy HS). Johnson and Burkhart will continue to help the team from the 50-yard freestyle all the way up to the 1,650-yard freestyle, as well as adding key depth to the relays.

Le Bel will be out to extend his success in the distance freestyle and individual medley races. Piper will join Le Bel in the individual medley events and will remain a solid threat in the backstroke. Last year, Piper earned sixth place at the NWC Championships in the 200-yard backstroke and was 10th in the 200 I.M. He moved into fourth place on WU's all-time list in the 200 IM with a time of 1:59.33.

Coach Shevlin has brought in a freshman class that looks just as strong as last year's class. The freshmen are Josh Thornton (Napa, CA/Vintage HS), Kulananalu Tarnas (Kamuela, HI/Hawaii Preparatory Academy), Andrew Lum (Honolulu, HI/Punahou School) and Alex Guffey Seattle, WA/Roosevelt HS). They will give Willamette more depth and options in determining the lineups at each meet.

Thornton and Tarnas will help out in the breaststroke events, with Tarnas also increasing the quality of Willamette's freestyle relays. Sievers will provide strength in the freestyle and butterfly events. Lum has the skills to be the top butterfly competitor for the Bearcats this season, while bringing speed to his individual events as well as the medley relays. Guffey will contribute in the middle distance freestyle races.

In addition, the freshman athletes are set to help Willamette achieve significant improvement in the relay events.

Schedule Highlights

Willamette will take a winter training trip to San Diego, Calif., which will include a meet with Soka University. The Bearcats also will make the short trip to the Oregon Senior Open in Corvallis from Nov. 30 through Dec. 2. 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.

The home opener at the WU Natatorium is set for Friday, Nov. 9 at 6 p.m. (PDT) against the University of Puget Sound. Willamette will host Pacific Lutheran University on Saturday, Nov. 10 at 1 p.m.

"This is by far our strongest team in the last four years," Shevlin said. "We now have speed, depth and commitment on both sides (men and women). Look for this to be a record-breaking year for Bearcat swimming."

Sean Piper placed sixth in the NWC last season in the 200-yard backstroke.

Sean Piper placed sixth in the NWC last season in the 200-yard backstroke.