Western State’s Randi Yarnell Searching For First Division II NCAA Title This Week

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Photo Courtesy: Western State Athletics

2019 is Randi Yarnell’s final shot to win a national championship. But it’s not a do-or-die mentality for the Western Colorado senior studying exercise sports science.

Her main goal for NCAAs this week is not to win an individual title, although that is certainly something she would like to do. Her main goal this week in her final meet is to “finish on a good note.”

“I don’t have anything else after nationals so I just want to finish stronger than what I came in with. Just leave on a good note and know that I left everything in that pool and there is nothing I would change about the race I did.”

Yarnell came into the 2018 NCAA meet as the top seed in the 100 free and had the fastest time out of prelims. But in finals, she finished in second at 49.54, slightly slower than her 49.20 entry time that was faster than the winning time.

It was the closest she has ever come to an individual NCAA title.

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Photo Courtesy: Western State Athletics

Yarnell said she has thought about winning an individual title every year she has come in to the NCAA Championships. As a freshman she was seventh in the 200 free in 2016. As a sophomore in 2017 she was sick and did not score in any of her events. As a junior in 2018 she only made one A-final again and that was the runner-up spot in the 100 free.

Also at the meet last year, she was 10th in the 50, 11th in the 100 fly, and 12th in the 200 free. She had come into the meet seeded in the top eight in all four of her events, but it was still the first time she was able to score in everything at NCAAs.

This year, she enters Indianapolis as the second seed in the 100 free, third in the 50 and 200 free, and fifth in the 100 fly.

One of the major differences this year for Yarnell is the addition of her Western teammate, sophomore Savannah Tice, who will be swimming the 100 and 200 back with Yarnell at the meet. It will be the first time in Yarnell’s career that she will have another teammate on deck with her at NCAAs.

But it’s not just the fact that she will not be alone at the meet that is exciting for Yarnell. Tice is her roommate and one of her closest friends.

“I’m very excited to go with her because her and I are very close. I am very excited to not go alone and have someone else there on deck with me. It’s just a lot better mentally to have somebody there with you. I know she is excited about the whole experience itself.”

This week’s Division II NCAAs is also going to be in Indianapolis, which was where the meet was when Yarnell was just a freshman. She has felt it has come full circle this year. But when she was a freshman that year, her parents did not get to come to the meet.

This year they will be there.

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Photo Courtesy: Western State Athletics

“I am excited to get in the water and be the best swimmer that I can be and finish on that good note that I want, and who knows maybe win one.”

Western Colorado has only had one individual national champion in swimming and diving. That was Nelson Shibasaki in the 200 back in 1968. Yarnell has a chance to be the first woman swimmer to win an NCAA title and would be the first man or woman in 51 years to do so.

So what would it mean to her to win?

“There would be so many emotions, I probably wouldn’t stop smiling. My face would hurt so bad, I would just keep smiling and smiling. I know my team would be ecstatic and jumping up and down and over the moon if they were actually there.

“They would be screaming and I would get so many hugs and high fives and good jobs and everything. It would mean the world to me and my team and the whole school would be super proud to have that.”

But winning isn’t the main focus for Yarnell. The main focus is just to finish on a good note. But with her parents in the stands and an extra teammate on deck by her side, it’s hard to imagine a better way for her to finish her career.