Swimming - Tue, Feb. 28, 2017
News Photo

BARBOURVILLE, Ky. – Union College men's and women's swimming team will wrap up their 2016-17 season this week as the teams travel to Columbus, (Ga.) for the 2017 NAIA Men's and Women's Swimming and Diving National Championships.

The annual event will take place at the Columbus Aquatic Center beginning on Wednesday and concluding on Saturday.

"The expectation for the meet is very high," said head coach Rafael Forti. "It has been a long season; a lot of hard work has been put in behind the scenes. I believe everyone that has qualified can represent us well at nationals."

After coming off a 13th-place finish at the 2016 National Championships, Union men and women look to build and grow, and to improve on their seasonal best times, along with possibly breaking some school records. "The team is stronger this year, than before, but so is everyone else going to Nationals," Forti states.

On the men's side, the Bulldogs are paced by Ivar de Jong, who has continued to find success following his standout freshman year. He has made Top 20 in NAIA in four events: sixth in the 200 Breast (2:06.56), seventh in the 400 IM (4:06.58), 14th in the 200 IM (1:55.47) and 16th in the 500 (4:43.95).

Another competitor who looks to make a big splash at Nationals is diver Timothy Pitts. In the 3-meter, Pitts enters the meet placed No. 2 with a 229.88, which he earned early in the year against Asbury. Pitts will also compete in the 1-meter diving with a score of 208.72, which he received when he competed at University of the Cumberlands during the first meet of the year. He is sitting at the No. 5 seed for that event.

Elsewhere, newcomer Grant Davies will compete in three events 100-Butterfly, 100-Freestyle, and 200-Butterfly as he looks to build high expectations his first trip to nationals. While teammates Nicholas Bowling, Lucas Lucena and Bailey Harris will each take part in two events. Bowling will compete in the 500-Freestyle and 1,650-Freestyle, Lucena will swim the 100 and 200 backstroke, and Harris will race in the 100 and 200 breaststroke.

On the women's side, Union is led by Lara Kaufmann, who is no stranger to the national stage as the senior looks to improve her time from a year ago when she earned her CSCAA All-American Honorable Mention honors. Kaufmann posted NAIA A cuts in the 1650 Freestyle (18:06.75), 200 Freestyle (1:59.06), 500 Freestyle (5:29.16) to clinch her third national appearance in a row.

Kellianne Holck will compete alongside Kaufmann in the 1650 and 500 freestyle. Eliska Melicharova plans to compete in three solo events. She hit her fastest times on February 9 qualifying her in the 50-Yard Freestyle (25.58), 100 Backstroke (1:00.62) and 200 Backstroke (2:11.57).

Union's relay teams will also look to have a strong outing, the 200-Medley relay (1:54.22) and the 200-Freestyle Relay (1:44.15) seeded well at Nationals, also being there best times by over 11 seconds this season.

The 60th annual men's and 37th annual women's Swimming and Diving National Championships kick off on Wednesday at 11 a.m.

For more championship information and schedule of events, click here.