ST. PETERS, Mo. -- Kaylen Hewko solidified her position as the standard by which all future Cougar swimmers will judged. And that standard may last for a very long time.
Hewko, a junior from Fullerton, Calif., became the first Cougar athlete ever to win an NAIA individual swimming title, and in that she captured 3 individual titles, breaking an NAIA record in one of them, while leading Azusa Pacific to a surprising sixth-place finish at the NAIA Swimming & Diving Championship Meet in St. Peters, Mo., this weekend.
Hewko won the 100-yard butterfly (56.25), 500 freestyle (4:48.46) and broke the 16-year old NAIA record in the 200 fly by nearly half a second with a winning time of 2:02.57. Combined with her efforts in the Cougar relays, Hewko had a hand in 180 of Azusa Pacific’s 347 points tallied in the 4-day NAIA Championship Meet. Savannah College of Art & Design (Ga.) successfully defended its championship of a year ago with 540 points. California Baptist University followed with 472 points. Fresno Pacific University was third with 451, while Concordia University (Calif.) finished fourth 393. Simon Fraser University narrowly edged the Cougars for fifth place with 354 points.
In the process of becoming a 3-time NAIA champion, Hewko also shattered her own school records by no less than a full second in all 3 events.
In addition, she anchored one Cougar relay and swam legs on 3 others, all of which set school records. It was a near perfect meet for Hewko.
The quartet of Stacey, Hill, Hewko and Gibb posted a 1:36.48 to finish second in the 200 free relay.
The 400 free relay of Stacey, Hill, Gibb and Hewko went 3:32.56 to finish third and give Hewko her fifth All-America honor of the meet (the 3 individual races and the 200 free relay were also All-America finishes).
Azusa Pacific surprisingly grabbed the early lead in the meet after Wednesday’s opening day of competition with 50 points in diving. Liz Dotson and Kassi Duncan finished second and third in the 1-meter diving with 197.10 and 195.20 points, respectively. Duncan came back later in the day to finish second in the 3-meter diving with a score of 171.80. Both Dotson and Duncan collected All-America recognition for their showings.
Though she barely missed All-America recognition, Gibb, a freshman, put together a dazzling array of individual performances for a rookie, finishing fourth in the 50 free (24.47), fifth in the 100 fly (57.95), and fifth in the 100 free (53.16), to go along with All-America honors with her legs in the Cougars’ 200-free and 400-free relays.
In her first appearance on the national stage, Garcia did well. The freshman finished sixth in the 400 individual medley (4:40.29), eighth in the 200 IM (2:12.67) and 12th in the 200 breaststroke (2:27.86).
Hill picked up 3 points for Azusa Pacific with a career-best time in the 200 free by finishing 14th (1:59.29), while the redshirt freshman Morgan got to the finals of the 100 back and collected 4 more points by finishing 13th (1:00.55)
Stacey, who took a momentary break from her duties on the Cougar water polo team, parlayed her speed into a seventh-place finish in the finals of the 100 free (53.94).
Freshman Maegan Collett made the most of her opportunities by squeezing into the finals of the 200 fly (2:18.20) and collect a point for the Cougars
A year ago, Azusa Pacific finished seventh at the NAIAs in its inaugural season of intercollegiate swimming a& diving.