RIVERSIDE, Calif. -- Azusa Pacific enjoyed a terrific opening weekend to its third season of intercollegiate women’s swimming & diving, competing for 2 days on the campus of California Baptist University.
In 2 separate meets hosted by Cal Baptist – Friday’s Pacific Collegiate Swimming Conference (PCSC) Pentathlon Invitational and Saturday’s PCSC Relays – Azusa Pacific qualified 8 athletes for 7 events and added 4 relays to the ticket request for the NAIA championships of next March. In addition, the Cougars recorded 9 career-best efforts, an impressive display for the first meets of the new season.
“Basically, we’ve used this weekend in the past to set up where we are as a team, to perhaps discover hidden talent in our haystack, so to speak,” said Azusa Pacific Head Coach Robert Fleming. “We use it to test the ladies in different events and set up our season, identify particular strengths and going from there, certainly not to be qualifying athletes for the NAIAs. So it was a pleasant surprise to have so many good marks on the first weekend of the season.”
National champion Kaylen Hewko led the parade of NAIA qualifiers, reaching the championship meet standard in 4 different events, including 100-yard butterfly, which she won during Saturday’s competition with a 58.41. She also posted career-best times in the 100 free (55.25) and the 100 back (1:02.55), tying Malerie Morgan’s school-record in the 100 back. For good measure, Hewko clocked a 2:16.03 in the 200-yard individual medley to put her name on the NAIA list for that event as well.
“Put a carrot in front of Kaylen and she’ll chase it,” said Fleming. “She is so good and already swimming at a high level.”
Meanwhile, Morgan kept a busy schedule herself, competing in 9 different events, 3 of which she met the NAIA mark. Individually, she clocked a 1:03.47 in the 100-yard backstroke, and then swam legs on the Cougars’ NAIA qualifying 400-yard medley relay (4:07.24) and 400-yard freestyle relay (3:45.52).
All-American sophomore Victoria Gibb picked up right where she left off the 2010 season, sprinting well in the 50- (25:38) and 100-yard (55:30) freestyles while also qualifying in the 100-yard butterfly (1:00.71). Likewise, fellow sophomore Simone Garcia qualified for the NAIAs in 3 different individual events, the 100 fly (1:01.90), 100 breast (career-best 1:10.48) and the 200 individual medley (2:17.04).
Among the newcomers, freshmen Quinn Robertson and Cameron Hagen wasted no time adjusting the college swimming, posting impressive rookie times. Robertson, from Valley Christian High in Phoenix, Ariz., met the qualifying standards in both the 50 free (25:86) and 100 free (56.41), while Hagen, a Claremont (Calif.) High alum, met the mark in the 100 breast (1:11.54).
“Quinn really surprised us because she has been working so hard and came into the weekend a little ragged,” said Fleming. “We weren’t expecting her times to be so good at this point given the heavy amount of conditioning she has put in the past few weeks.”
The other 2 Cougar relays qualifying for the NAIAs were the 200 free (1:46.22) and the 800 free (8:27.06), on which sophomore Alyssa Hickman swam a leg in both.
“We’re starting off faster than we did last year,” said Fleming, who guided the Cougars to a sixth-place finish at last year’s NAIA meet. “This was really a good meet for us and certainly creates a lot of excitement about the season ahead.”
Azusa Pacific will back in the pool Oct. 23 at the Malibu Invitational hosted by Pepperdine University. The first event is scheduled for 9:30 a.m.