WALLA WALLA, Wash. - Buoyed by a roster of 33 athletes, including eight swimmers who placed at last year's Northwest Conference Championships, Whitman College swim coach Jenn Blomme expects her teams to cast a much wider wake this winter.
Blomme, now in her fourth season at Whitman, takes her men's and women's swim teams to Spokane this Saturday, Nov. 1, for the season-opening NWC Sprint Pentathlon at Whitworth College. On Sunday, conference teams converge on Whitman's Sherwood Center pool for the NWC Relay Invitational.
The Missionary women's roster boasts 22 swimmers to start the season, up a handful from a year ago. The women placed fifth at last year's NWC Championships, finishing a scant 18 points out of fourth place.
The Whitman men's squad, after placing sixth last season with just five athletes on the roster, has more than doubled in size this winter, from five to 11.
Whitman's most talented returning swimmer is Alexis Jinbo-Doran, a junior captain. Jinbo-Doran placed fifth in three events at last year's conference championships, setting a new school record in the 200-yard breaststroke. Her record time also came within one second of hitting the conditional qualifying time for the NCAA national championships.
Jinbo-Doran nearly broke a second school record at last year's NWC meet. Her time in the 100-yard breaststroke missed the old mark by just two-tenths of a second. She also posted a strong time in the finals of the 200-yard individual medley, moving into third place on Whitman's all-time "best times" list for that event.
Jinbo-Doran isn't the only returning women's swimmer who placed in three events at last year's conference meet. Allison Boomer and Kathy Bui, now sophomores, accomplished the same feat last winter.
Boomer capped her first season by placing fifth in the 200-yard butterfly, 10th in the 100-yard butterfly and 15th in the 200-yard individual medley. Bui also wrapped up her first collegiate campaign in fine style, finishing eighth in the 100-yard backstroke, 10th in the 50-yard freestyle and 11th in the 100-yard freestyle.
Whitman's other two junior captains this season, Lila Little and Kristyn Vytlacil, also placed at last year's championship meet. Little finished eighth in the 1,650-yard freestyle, while Vytlacil was 16th in the 100-yard breaststroke.
Bolstering the women's roster is the return of seniors Katie Imberg and Ellen Klobucher, both of whom missed last season. In each of her first two seasons at Whitman, Imberg placed in three events at the conference championships, finishing as high as 10th in the 100-yard backstroke. Klobucher placed 16th two years ago in the 1,650-yard freestyle.
The women's roster also includes two juniors competing for the first time, Brianna Booth and Zoe Selzer (both swimmers will compete during the fall semester but then study off-campus during the spring semester), returning sophomore Natalie Loebner, and three more sophomores competing for the first time: Ashley Apel, Danielle Phillips-Dorset and Lily Sobolik.
Rounding out the women's team are eight first-year students: Danielle Alvarado, Katharine Curles, Lisa Doane, Nora Feeney, Alexis Krupp, Erin Phillips, Danielle Shea and Erica Sorensen. Krupp, Feeney and Sorensen are poised to make the most immediate impact.
The Whitman men's team is led by junior captains Garth Brand and Keith Jarrett, each of whom placed in three events at last year's championships, finishing as high as 10th.
Brand made his 10th-place showing in the 100-yard backstroke, up three spots from his freshman year. Brand added an 11th-place finish in the 200-yard backstroke (his time places him sixth all-time at Whitman) and a 13th-place effort in the 500-yard freestyle (10th all-time at Whitman).
Jarrett was 10th in the 50-yard freestyle and 14th in both the 100-yard butterfly and 100-yard freestyle.
Brett Lyon, a junior in only his second season of swimming, placed in two events at last year's championships. He was 13th in the 1,650-yard freestyle and 16th in the 200-yard freestyle.
Newcomers on the men's roster include three sophomores: Matt Warren, a talented transfer from the University of Redlands, and Clark Blumenstein and Arthur Jones, each of whom is competing for the first time.
Warren, who did his prep swimming at Jackson High School in Everett, Wash., made key contributions for Redlands last year as the Bulldogs won the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference championship. He placed seventh in both the 200-yard individual medley and 200-yard backstroke, and eighth in the 100-yard backstroke.
Had Warren been competing in the NWC rather than the SCIAC championships, his times would have placed him third in the 100-yard backstroke, fourth in the 200-yard backstroke, and seventh in the 200-yard imdividual medley. His times, in addition, would have placed him second, third and fifth on Whitman's all-time "best times" list for those events.
Also new to the men's team is junior Johnny Keyes, a Walla Walla High School graduate who was recruited to swim at Whitman but concentrated on varsity golf his first two years. Keyes is competing in both sports this year.
Freshmen on the men's roster are Matt Colley, Jonathan Gingrich, Drew Stillman and Robert Street.
After this weekend's conference-wide meets, Whitman hits the road for a series of three NWC dual meets. The Northwest Invitational on Dec. 5-6 in Tacoma completes the first-semester competitions.
The Missionaries host four dual meets from Jan. 16 through Jan. 31. The NWC Championships are slated for Feb. 13-15 in Portland.