The 2017 NJCAA National Swimming & Diving Championships reached the halfway point of the four-day competition taking place on the campus of Erie Community College in Buffalo, New York. After day two of competition and scoring, both the men's and women's teams of Indian River State College are poised to make a final push in the second half of the competition and bring home two more NJCAA team titles. Friday morning events and qualifying for the evening final's session got underway at 9:30 AM with IRSC securing a great deal of top spots in the 'A' Finals assuring they could extend the team points leads.
The morning got underway with the swimming of the 100 Individual Medley, an event added to the competition format on 2016. This event is always one of the most exciting events to watch as spectators get to see quick transitions from stroke to stroke four times in four laps. Natalie Grothe, in what appeared to be an easy morning swim, settled in as the top seed with a 1:01.04 time. In the night's first final, Grothe secured her third individual title of the meet, followed closely by teammate and second place finisher, Lauren Meryck. Cameron Newton, and Guillaume Bolivard headed into tonight's final as the top two seeds for the men, separated by only .55 seconds. Bolivard jump out to an early lead at the first 25, and extended his lead on the backstroke. Newton came on strong in the breaststroke portion pulling the race even at the 75 yard mark. In the final sprint home, the freestyle, Newton pulled away for the win and his first individual national title of the championship.
The 500 Free, second on the list, proved to be big team points for 'THE RIVER'. The team placed four men and four women in the top eight of each gender. Luka Tomic and Malin Wallen were both seeded first heading into tonight's finals. Not showing any signs of intimidation being the third seeded swimmer after the morning, Ianthe Van Der Westhuizen took a slight lead early on during the final over Malin Wallen. Following closely behind were Morgan Holt and Sarah Dostie. As the race began to develop, Van Der Westhuizen continued to hold consistent splits and build upon her lead, eventually winning the race. Wallen, Dostie and Holt rounded out the top four spots in the women's 500 Free. The men's race proved to be nearly identical to the women's with Tomic taking a slight lead at the 100 and building on that lead throughout the swim. His time of 4:26.78 secured his third individual title. 'THE RIVER' gained valuable team points with 2nd, 3rd and 4th being picked up by Jason Van Der Touw, Alex Berggren and Jacob Andrasco.
Following the middle distance event, the 100 Back was contested. In the morning session, Megan Abad, winner of the 50 Back, and Courtney Stewart were set up for a great final, while Harrison Howerton seemed primed to pick up his first individual title of the meet. Abad set the tone in the night swim with her strong underwater kicks off the start and walls. Stewart stayed competitive between the flags but in the end, Abad's strong walls got her the win. The men's race was controlled by Howerton wire-to-wire but a charging Jonas Olcyzk peaked the interest of the crowd with a strong back half of the race, rapidly closing the gap. Ultimately the men swept the top three spots when DJ Lobrutto took the bronze.
The 100 Breast was going to be a pivotal event in the race for NJCAA Male Swimmer of the Year. Hylton Collinson from Iowa Lakes had secured wins in both the 200 and 400 Individual Medley events, putting him in the hunt for the award presented on Saturday night. He faced stiff competition from Joel Falk Hansson, Andrew Wojcik and John Fauteaux. A win by any of the IRSC team members would virtually eliminate Hollinson from the race for the award and clear the path for Luka Tomic from IRSC who has won the 200, 500 and 1000 Free events and is the top seed in Saturday's 1650 Free. The women's event featured Courtney Perrett as the top qualifier from the morning heats, another individual primed for an NJCAA honor on Saturday night having won the 50 Breast and 200 Free on days one and two. Perrett seized the opportunity to claim another title by jumping out to an immediate lead and never looked back. Along the way, her split at the halfway point, 28.84, was good enough to set a new NJCAA National Record for the 50 Breaststroke. On the men's side, John Fauteux helped his teammate, Tomic, when he claimed his first title of the competition. Andrew Wojcik took second and Joel Falk Hansson took third, pushing Collinson to a fourth place finish.
The final individual event for swimming was was the 200 Fly. Nick Loomis, fresh off his National Record setting performance in the 100 Fly, cruised in the morning session to a 1:48.24 and top seed for finals. Morgan Holt, swimming the tough 500 Free and 200 Fly double today, secured lane four in tonight's women's final. Holt endured the pain and showed grit, gutting her way through her final swim of the night. The soon to be University of South Dakota Coyote upon graduation was not to be denied her first national title of her IRSC career, dominating the event from the onset. Loomis established himself once again as the fastest man in the history of the the butterfly events when he set a new NJCAA National Record with his time of 1:46.10. The mark is Loomis' third NJCAA National Record in his sophomore year.
As the meet headed into the diving break, Robbie Costine prepared to set his sights on another national title following his record breaking performance on Wednesday evening. Both Costine and Gavrilo Blijden had solid morning performances setting them up for a 1-2 finish on the 1-M board. Blijden proved to be a much improved diver from the start of the 16/17 season to the national championship meet and was a threat throughout the competition. His athleticism and discipline kept him close, but, in the end, Costine's experience over his two year career kept him on top, securing a sweep of both boards for the sophomore.
The final event of the evening, the 800 Free Relay showed the depth and power of the Indian River squads. The women's team of Malin Wallen, Madyson Lyons, Sarah Dostie and Ianthe Van Der Westhuizen outdistanced the field by more than thirty seconds, while the men's team of Cameron Newton, John Fauteux, Jason Van Der Touw and Luka Tomic won the event to sweep all men's events contested this evening.
Women's Team Scores (Top 3)
Indian River - 873
South Georgia - 421
Iowa Central - 394.5
Men's Team Scores (Top 3)
Indian River - 1009
Southwestern Oregon - 386
Iowa Central - 368