ST PETER’S, Mo. -- In its first-ever NAIA Swimming & Diving Championship Meet appearance, Azusa Pacific rallied over during the third and final day of competition to finish seventh with 197 points at the 29th Annual NAIA Championship Meet. Savannah (Ga.) College of Art & Design won its first-ever national crown, tallying 691 points.
Sophomore Kaylen Hewko led a Cougar contingent of a dozen swimmers by becoming Azusa Pacific’s first-ever All-American in swimming & diving. Hewko was third in the 1650-yard free style (17:17.16) and was the national-runner-up in the 200-yard butterfly (2:06.37), registering school-record times in both events. It was her effort in the 200 fly that capped Saturday’s championship effort in which the Cougars rallied from tenth place to open the day moving into seventh by the end of the meet.
“I am totally proud of what all the girls did today,” said Azusa Pacific head coach Robert Fleming. “To open the day in tenth and finish in seven is awesome. I was surprised that we moved up to eighth and then get to seventh made me go ‘wow!’”
Hewko swam 13 races over the course of the 3-day meet, including 4 of the possible 5 relays. Along with her individual efforts in the 1650 free and 200 fly, she also finished fourth in the 100-yard butterfly (58.27).
Senior Parisa Dana logged a busy 3 days of work as well, having a hand in 106 of the Cougars’ 197 points over the course of the 7 events in which she competed. Dana finished fifth in the 100-yard breaststroke (1:05.85) and seventh in the 200 breast (2:28.92).
Senior Lauren Wichhart was sixth in the 200 breast (2:28.51) and 15th in the 100 breast (1:08.62).
Junior Jennelle Stacey anchored the Cougars to a sixth in the 200-yard medley relay (1:51.14) and swam the third leg of the Cougars’ 200 free relay that finished ninth (1:39.75).
Azusa Pacific registered 108 points out of it relay competition.
“The girls went hog wild on Saturday and swam like crazy,” added Fleming. “We put 4 of our 5 relays in the finals. The team came together and just had a perfect final day for all of them.”
The championship meet concludes Azusa Pacific’s inaugural season of women’s swimming & diving. The seventh place finish bolsters the strength of the sport in the NAIA on the west coast. Four of the top 7 teams came from California.
A relatively young team, Azusa Pacific featured just 3 seniors on its 22-player roster, which also included 9 freshmen.