10 Swimmers To Watch At The NAIA National Championships

Photo Courtesy: Lileana Pearson

The National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) men’s and women’s Swimming and Diving National Championships will take place March 1-4 at the Columbus Aquatic Center in Columbus, Georgia.

Last year, Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) dominated the women’s meet, winning by over 200 points ahead of Olivet Nazarene. Brenau finished third.

On the men’s side, Olivet Nazarene won while SCAD took second. Lindenwood-Belleville rounded out the top three.

5 Women’s Swimmers to Watch:

1. Courtney Hayward

Brenau’s Hayward enters the meet as the top seed in the 500 and 1650 as well as the third seed in the 400 IM. At the Appalachian Conference Championships three weeks ago, the senior won those three events. Last year at this meet, she won the 500 and mile and took second in the 400 IM.

2. Lisa Tixier

Tixier will return as one of the meet’s top sprinters after finishing first in the 100 free and 100 fly and taking second in the 50 free in 2016. The Biola senior won those three events at the Pacific Collegiate Conference Championships earlier last month and is a crucial part of the Eagles’ relays. She also enters the meet as the top seed in the 200 IM.

3. Tiffany Ray

Olivet Nazarene’s Ray was the 200 IM champion at this meet last year and also added two silvers in the 400 IM and the 200 back. She swam crucial legs on her team’s second-place 800 free and 400 medley relays, as well. Although her seed times aren’t as high, watch for the senior to pick up right where she left off last year.

4. Abigail Richey

Last year as a freshman, Richey won the 200 free and swam on three of SCAD’s winning relays. This year, the sophomore is hungry for more success. She’s seeded fourth in the 100 free and first in the 200 free as she tries to reclaim her title.

5. Andrea Vega

Vega enters the meet as the top seed in the 100 breast and the second seed in the 200 breast after taking silver in both events one year ago. The Olivet Nazarene sophomore showed she is a diverse swimmer as she swam on all five of the Tigers’ relays in 2016.

5 Men’s Swimmers to Watch:

1. Joel Thatcher

This freshman is sure to make a big impact at his first NAIA Championships. The SCAD rookie is the top seed by over six seconds in the 500 free, the event he took second in at the Bluegrass Mountain Championships earlier in February. He’s also the top seed in the 400 IM and the second seed in the mile.

2. Danny Hartley

The junior is the top seed in the 200 back by over five seconds and is the only man under 50 seconds in the 100 back. In his first year swimming for Keiser, Hartley will be looking to show his backstroke dominance in the NAIA.

3. Joel Ax

Last year’s 200, 500, and 1650 free NAIA Champion returns looking to collect more gold. The SCAD senior is the top seed in the 50, 100, and 200 free this season—opting not to swim the distance events—proving his versatility across all freestyle distances. He’s also a crucial part of SCAD’s relays.

4. Josiah Morales

Wayland Baptist’s Morales is entered with seed times that are already much faster than his performances last year. The senior is the top seed in the 100 fly after finishing fourth in 2016. He also enters the meet as the second seed in the 50 free and the fourth seed in the 200 fly, looking to improve upon his tenth-place finish from last year.

5. Lukas Macek

After winning both the 100 and 200 breast at the Appalachian Conference Championships a few weeks ago, Macek will aim to continue his success this weekend. The Keiser freshman is the top seed in both events and is the favorite to take both titles at his first NAIA Championships. 

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Author: Chandler Brandes

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Chandler Brandes is a junior at the University of Vermont where she is majoring in Public Communication and double minoring in Coaching and Sports Management. She swims IM and freestyle for their Division 1 program and this is her third year on board with Swimming World.

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