All went swimmingly for Westmont College when it tested the waters of the cyberworld last weekend.
The Warriors finished second in a four-way women’s meet conducted with schools from three, faraway states: the College of Idaho; Loyola, La., and Midland, Neb.
Each school competed in its own pool because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The competition started simultaneously at 9 a.m. PST with the same sequence of events.
“We are trying to come up with whatever meets we can,” explained coach Jill Jones Lin, who started Westmont’s program last year.
The College of Idaho actually served as host of the meet by collecting and tabulating the results. Each school provided swim officials and an automated timing system.
The unique situation did have its challenges, Jones Lin said.
“If you are the only one in an event, or if there is a big difference in your time and your teammate’s time, there is not as much competition,” she said. “It also takes a little bit of the pressure off, so there are benefits to that.”
The setting drew mixed feelings from sophomore Morgan Bienias, who finished ahead of eight other swimmers to win the 500-yard freestyle in a time of 5:43.11.
“It is a little hard as a competition because you just have your teammates (to race),” she said. “It feels like practice a little bit, so it is hard to get that motivation.
“But, a lot of us did well supporting each other and trying to get our spirits up so we could swim fast and not feel like it was a practice.”
Freshman Cayla Won finished second to Bienias in the 500 in a time of 5:51.68.
“Honestly, it felt like a meet, even though it was just Westmont swimmers,” she said. “With all the timing stuff, I definitely felt like it was different than practice.”
Midland won the meet with 548 points while Westmont finished second with 425. They were followed by the College of Idaho with 409 and Loyola with 298.
Coach Jones Lin was pleasantly surprised with the Warriors’ times.
“A lot of them had not raced since February or March,” she said. “Some had not been swimming this whole time.
“It was encouraging to see they weren’t that far off their times. We have only been training for three-ish weeks in the pool.”
Bienias holds the school record in the 500 with a time of 5:21.07.
“I felt like I was doing well and was sprinting,” she said. “It felt smooth and felt like my technique was good. My time was not as good as my other times from before, but considering it is the first meet of the season, it was pretty good.”
Won said her legs warmed up midway through the 500 to enable her to take second.
“I pushed through it and got a time out of it,” she said.
Bienias took fourth in the 200 backstroke in a time of 2:22.00.
“The 200 backstroke is probably the hardest race for me,” she said. “It takes a lot out of my legs, but it wasn’t too bad.”
Freshman Bridget Hoth won the 50 free. Her time of 25.61 just missed the NAIA’s preliminary qualification time of 25:58.
“That was exciting for her to do that,” Jones Lin said.
Hoth also placed second in the 100 free (57.27) and fourth in the 100 back (1:04.09).
The Warriors finished third in the day’s final event, the 200 free relay. The team of Hoth, Kassy Gregory, Rachel Peden and Won clocked a time of 1:48.21.
Jones Lin is hoping to schedule more virtual meets.
“We are trying to get together a meet in January or February where we can qualify (for nationals),” she said. “Right now, we are trying to get as many races together as we can.”