Historic championship meet for swim

Senior Chloe Larson brought home first individual title in school history



Then-senior breaststroke swimmer Linnea Lindberg races in the women’s 200-yard breaststroke against the University of Wyoming Feb. 8, 2019 at Gibb Pool.

KAT MCKINNEY-ROLEY, Evergreen reporter

The WSU swim team had a historic weekend in Houston for the final meet of the Pac-12 swim season. In the four-day event, the Cougars saw multiple top-ten times and even a Pac-12 individual champion.

After a start-and-stop season due to COVID-19, the season started back up against Utah on Jan. 15. The Cougs ended up falling short to the Utes but had a great first meet.

Next, WSU swam against Idaho and Seattle where they took wins in both meets. By the end of their third and final meet, WSU had the momentum they needed to travel to Houston to compete against the other six Pac-12 swim programs.

WSU ended up placing seventh. However, the Cougs scored 533 points, which is the highest team total since the 19851986 season. California took the 2021 Pac-12 title for the first time since 2015.

“We’re resetting the record books,” head coach Matt Leach said.

This weekend, WSU saw several top-ten program times and some NCAA cut times.

On Feb. 24, the first day of the Pac-12 championships, the Cougs swam in the 400-medley relay. In the event finals, senior Taylor McCoy started off the relay with the 100-back. McCoy posted a time of 54.75 seconds in the first leg of the relay. She dropped a second from her previous 100-back time and also recorded the sixth-fastest time in Cougar swim history.

“It was an amazing start and I’m looking forward to even bigger performances as we move deeper into the Pac-12 championships,” Leach said after the first day of the meet.

On the second day of the meet, senior Chloe Larson made Cougar history by becoming the first WSU swimmer to bring home an individual Pac-12 title. Larson swam a 22.16 in the 50-free to out-touch swimmers from UCLA, Cal and USC to clinch the title.

Larson beat a previous record held by Cougar alum and Lithuanian Olympian Rugile Mileisyte. Mileisyte’s record was set in 2009 at 22.45, but Larson is now the WSU record holder for the event.

“Winning your first Pac-12 title in program history is a pretty fun day, it was amazing,” Leach said. “My hat goes off to Chloe. She is somebody that had worked and deserves everything that she has gotten and more.”

On the third day of swimming, the Cougs added five top-10 times to their belt. McCoy swam a 4:15.07 in the 400-individual medley, which earned her an NCCA B cut and the second-fastest time in WSU history.

“Our 400 IMers did a great job with all posting a personal-best time either in prelims or finals. Taylor was our top finisher of the night, finishing just off the school record,” Leach said.

Freshmen Alexandra Vartiainen and Hailey Grotte swam in the 100-breast and recorded top ten times. Vartiainen recorded a 1:02.26 and Grotte recorded a 1:02.99, which are the eighth and tenth-fastest times in WSU history. Sophomore Michee Van Rooyen also won the 200-free “C” race with a 1:49.04, coming in at the ninth-fastest time in school history.

“We had 12 swims tonight, which is one of the most WSU has had in final races and I thought our young group did a great job of bringing the energy and competing,” Leach said.

Later in the day, Vartiainen broke her own top time in the 100-breast and swam a 1:01.85, the fifth-fastest time in program history. Freshman Kaya Takashige also swam a 1:02.80 in the 200-breast to post the tenth-fastest time in the program.

“Our breaststroke group really stepped up with Alexandra, Hailey, Kaya and Mackenzie [Duarte]. In those breaststroke events, that group produced four top-10 times with one knocked just outside the top 10 by a teammate,” Leach said.

On the last day of the meet, Larson made another splash in the pool with the 100-free. Larson swam a 49.00 in the preliminaries and a 48.74 in the “B” final. Larson also broke the school record in this event. She now holds two WSU records.

“Day four was really good, we set a new school record twice, and had more top ten swims. It was a really good day for us to finish on a good note,” Leach said.

In the 200-back, McCoy swam an NCAA “B” time of 1:57.09. Mackenzie Duarte also recorded an NCAA “B” time in the preliminaries of the 200-breast with a 2:13.11.

Vartiainen swam in the 200-breast. She recorded a 2:14.91 which counted for an eighth-fastest time in WSU history. Freshman Kiana Swain swam in the 200-fly with a 2:02.40, which also counted for a seventh-fastest time in WSU swim history.

The Cougars are now waiting to find out selections for the NCAA meet which come out on March 3.