The swim team had a successful weekend in Birmingham, Alabama, where it took part in the NCAA championship. When talking to head coach Liam Donnelly, he said that, “On the men’s side, we scored more points overall, and placed higher, than was predicted by the incoming rankings.” Similarly, on the women’s side, the team “improved our rank and total points from last season.”
The standout performers for SFU at this year’s competition were Adrian VanderHelm, Mackenzie Hamill, and Jessie Gibson. They all had multiple all-American honours, which is given when you place in the top eight at the Championship.
On day one, VanderHelm beat the previous SFU record (1:47.07) for the 200-yard individual medley (IM), which he set last year, with a career-best time of 1:46.05. On day two, VanderHelm destroyed his ranking of 15th to finish second in the 400-yard IM with a time of 3:48.07. This time makes him the third-fastest swimmer in that event in NCAA Division II history. He would go on to finish with four all-American swims.
Hamill finished third in the 1000-yard freestyle on day one of the tournament, swimming a 9:05.80 in the morning heats. He went on to pick up his second all-American honour later in the Championship, when he raced a 4:27.18 in the 500-yard freestyle. He also finished fourth in the 1650-yard freestyle with a time of 15:17.58. He would end the Championship with four all-American swims and three new SFU records.
Also finishing with an all-American honour for the men’s side was SFU junior Tim Woinoski. He finished sixth, right behind Hamill, in the 1650-yard freestyle with a time of 15:26.89.
For the females, Gibson (who was competing in her first NCAA Championship) was the top performer with two all-American swims. She finished fifth in the 100-yard butterfly with a time of 54.36 in the finals. She also placed fourth in the 200-yard butterfly with a time of 1:59.63. This time makes her the first woman in SFU history to swim under the two-minute barrier in this event.
When asked about what these all-American performances mean for the program, coach Donnelly responded with: “The all American level is the focus of our preparation. The swimmers that perform at this level had trained hard and competed at a high level with consistency throughout the year.”
Even with the team’s great performance, coach Donnelly was not surprised, saying, “We were expecting strong, consistent, and competitive performances throughout the meet.” Even with 20 new NCAA records and improvements across the events, the Simon Fraser swim team was still able to reach their goal of “[moving] up competitively.” The team moved forward from their ranking coming in, and should be happy with the results.
But even coach Donnelly had to admit that VanderHelm’s 400-yard IM race could not be expected, saying, “Perhaps Adrian moving from a 15th place ranking to finish second with the third-fastest time in NCAA Division II history is a touch surprising — but we knew he could do well in the event.”