First-Year Swimmers Bolster Women's Team

News Release Date:
Tuesday, October 26, 2010

WALLA WALLA, Wash. -- The Whitman College women's swim team, which was bolstered by a strong first-year class last season, welcomes another excellent group of rookies this fall.

Claire Collins
Melanie Notari

Two of the most talented newcomers are Claire Collins, a breaststroker from St. Ignatius College Prep in San Francisco, and Melanie Notari, a butterflyer from Bellevue (Wash.) high School. Both might see time in the freestyle events as well.

"Claire is a very strong all-around swimmer, but she has a very quick breaststroke," Blomme says.

"The first year of college is not easy for a student athlete, but if Claire swims on a par with her high school times, she has the potential to compete at the top of our conference and challenge for national times.

"Claire is also a delight to work with and a great fit for Whitman," Blomme adds. "She has interests outside the pool, even though she's very committed to her swimming. She loves Whitman and is just a very happy, joyful person. She could be our school mascot."

Genay Pilarowski
Ellen Banks

Meanwhile, Notari has the potential to challenge sophomore Katie Chapman for team supremacy in the butterfly events. Chapman finished second and third in the two butterfly races at last season's conference championships.

"It's great that Katie and Melani are teammates and can push one another in workouts," Blomme says. "It should lead to better race performances for both of them.

"Melanie also is thrilled to be at Whitman and very enthusiastic in everything she does. I think Melanie and Claire (Collins) were fast friends on Facebook even before school started."

Genay Pilarowski, a sophomore from Kneeland, Calif., is in her first year of college swimming after transferring to Whitman this fall from UCLA.

"Genay has the potential to be very good in the breaststroke," Blomme says. "She is very strong -- very hard working and confident. I think she's going to impress us this year."

Katie Chapman
Keller Hawkins

Rounding out the first-year class are Ellen Banks (Pasadena, Calif.) and Keller Hawkins (Nashville, Tenn.)

"Keller has the potential to be one of our best in the backstroke, but her breaststroke and freestyle are also good," Blomme says. "She might swim some individual medley (IM) for us as well."

Banks got a late with the swim team after running with the cross country team this fall.

"Ellen's training background isn't as strong as what we see in some of the other new swimmers, but she has talent and a natural feel for the water. Right now her best events might be the freestyle sprints."

Chapman and Charlotte Graham are back and better than ever to lead the sophomore class.

"Katie had knee surgery last summer and is recovering from that and doing well," Blomme says. "Most people don't realize that Katie's training was very limited by her knee toward the end of last season.

Charlotte Graham
Rebecca Ryle

"With a healthy knee and more conditioning, we might just be scratching the surface of Katie's talent."

Graham capped a fine first season at the NWC championships by placing third in the 200-yard freestyle, fourth in the 100-yard freestyle and sixth in the 200-yard IM.

"Charlotte continues to swim very aggressively in the water and look even stronger this year," Blomme says.

Sophomore breaststrokers Rebecca Ryle and Cari Cortez are back after battling shoulder problems a year ago.

Cortez finished eighth in the 100-breaststroke at conference finals. Ryle, who had more serious health woes, recovered to place ninth and 10th in the two breaststroke events.

"Both Rebecca and Cari are working hard to manage their injuries, but it takes a lot of time and effort for them to do that."

Cari Cortez
Sarah Behrens

Sarah Behrens was another sophomore hampered by shoulder problems last season.

"Sarah is recovering from surgery quite rapidly," Blomme says. "The doctors and trainers are impressed with the speed and extent of her recovery.

"All the work she's done to stabilize her shoulder has also made her very strong. If Sarah can keep her shoulders healthy, she's also going to impress people this season."

The sophomore class also includes Helen Jenne, who joined Graham, Chapman and Lauren Flynn (now a senior) last season to break school records in two freestyle relays.

Jenne's best individual performance at last year's NWC championships came in the 100-yard freestyle, where she placed 13th.

"Helen has a very aggressive stroke and an unbeatable spirit," Blomme says. "She continues to mature from a technical standpoint and lengthen out her swimming. She likes to race and is good at it."

Helen Jenne
Libby Arnosti

Libby Arnosti returns as one of the team's best backstrokers after a rookie season hampered by illness.

"That made it all the more difficult for Libby to adapt to all of the training that college swimming requires," Blomme says. "We're looking for Libby to have a much stronger sophomore season."

Arnosti scored points for Whitman at the conference championships in both backstroke races, placing 12th at the longer distance and 16th in the shorter event.

Erin Kiskaddon, a distance freestyler, rounds out the sophomore class. She made her best showing in the championships in 1,650-yard event, placing 24th.

"Erin has worked to get stronger and incorporate the technical feedback she has received," Blomme says. "She continues to improve."

This year's junior class is a bit on the small size, partly because distance freestyler Katie Tackman and breaststroker Alyssa Bader are on foreign study and won't return until January.

Lauren Flynn
Monica Boshart

Bader has placed as high as 12th in the 200-yard breaststroke at past NWC championship meets while Tackman made her best showing in the 1,650-yard freestyle, placing 13th.

Monica Boshart, a breaststroke specialist, tops the junior class. She placed fourth and eighth in the breaststroke events in the NWC finals last year, one year after placing seventh and eighth in the same two events.

"After more off-season conditioning, Monica looks stronger than ever," Blomme says.

Sylvie Luiten provides more depth from the junior class in the butterfly and sprint freestyle events. "Sylvie also continues to make some nice improvements," Blomme says.

The women's senior class, led by standout freestyle sprinter Lauren Flynn, is a small one with just three swimmers.

Flynn, a fixture in the championship finals at the conference meet for the past three years, has placed as high as third at 100 yards and fourth at both 50 and 200 yards.

"Lauren works as hard as anyone and should have another great season," Blomme says.

Flynn already holds school records in the 50-yard and 100-yard freestyle events, and she ranks third all-time at Whitman at the 200-yard distance.

Natalie Reilly
Ali Schlueter

Flynn and Ali Schlueter, who swims breaststroke and freestyle, are the senior captains.

"Ali was on foreign study last fall, came back with a limited training base and didn't make the conference meet, but she works tremendously hard and is greatly valued by her teammates," Blomme says.

"It speaks to our team culture that she was voted to be a captain. What this team values is hard work, dedication and focus, and Ali is a great role model in those areas. She's also a very supportive teammate who goes above and beyond whenever anything needs to be done for the good of the program."

Natalie Reilly, the other senior on the roster, returned to competitive swimming last year after a two-year break from the sport.

"It took Natalie most of the season to get back into the swing of training and to learn what college swimming is all about, but she did a good job with it all," Blomme says. "She is a strong all-around swimmer. She was both able and willing last year to swim the events where the team needed her most.

"I think Natalie is going to have an even better season for us this year."

At the NWC championships last February, Reilly finished 13th in the 200-yard backstroke and 15th in both IM events.

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CONTACT: Dave Holden
Sports Information Director
Whitman College, Walla Walla, Wash.
509 527-5902;