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Oklahoma Christian swimmers break records and post NCAA qualifying times at conference meet

“Trust the process”—swimmers spoke this phrase as they headed into the four-day conference meet last week.

On Feb. 12-15, both the men’s and women’s swim teams traveled to Grand Junction, CO, to compete at the El Pomar Natatorium in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference Championship meet.

In just their third season of competition, both swim teams posted several individual qualifying times and performed well as entire squads. On the final day of competition, the women landed in fourth place out of nine teams, which is the highest placement in program history. The men finished third ahead of in-state rival Oklahoma Baptist University.

Sophomore Savanna Barth, a nursing major from Stillwater, OK, said the atmosphere at conference was awesome and loud, which had a big effect on individual performances.

“The atmosphere at conference is crazy, exciting, cheerful and nerving,” Barth said. “The team cheered for each other like never before, which resulted in some people having the swims of their lives.”

Junior Zac Hawes, an accounting and finance major from Houston, TX, agreed with Barth. He said he was proud of Oklahoma Christian University for their performances in the pool and their camaraderie out of the pool at the conference meet.

“You feel the energy in the air, especially when you are swimming at finals,” Hawes said. “It gets really loud with everyone cheering. I think our team did the best cheering for our swimmers at finals, and that was really cool to be a part of.”

Oklahoma Christian also posted top individual performances in preparation for qualifying for the NCAA Division II Championships in March. To qualify, the swimmers have to post certain times in their races in A or B finals. If a swimmer posts a B final standard qualifying time, they will have to wait to see if they make the cut for the NCAA Division II Championship. The official qualifications will be announced Wednesday, Feb. 26.

Hawes posted Division II B qualifying times at the meet, even winning an individual conference title. Hawes won the 200 breaststroke, setting a new school record with a time of 2:01.45. He also finished

Hawes stands atop the medal stand for the 200 breaststroke. Photo by Murray Evans.

fourth in the 100 breaststroke, ninth in the 400 individual medley and 13th in the 200 individual medley, all B qualifying times.

Hawes said posting qualifying times and winning one race was a surreal feeling he had been waiting for after missing the time by 0.3 seconds.

“It was something I had been thinking about for a full year,” Hawes said. “I got second place in the event last year. I constantly thought about barely losing last year, and it gave me extra motivation during practice and our races. It felt really good to see all of the hard work pay off.”

On the women’s side, in her first year on the team, Kayci McKinnon, a freshman nutrition and exercise science from Trophy Club, TX, placed seventh in the 200 freestyle A final. In two other races, she swam in the B final, placing fifth in 1,000 freestyle and second in qualifying for the 500 freestyle.

McKinnon also joined Barth, freshman Cheyanne Parks and freshman Hope Hill in the 800 freestyle relay. The quartet obliterated the former school record by a whole minute to set a new time of 7:51.46 and placed fourth.

McKinnon swam with the 800 freestyle relay team and set a new school record. Photo by Steven Christy.

McKinnon said she felt energized and grateful for having such an amazing opportunity and performance in her first year of collegiate swimming.

“I am very happy with the times I posted at conference,” McKinnon said. “With the adjustment to altitude, I feel like I adjusted well and figured out the best way to prepare for my races. This championship meet was a great experience for me as a freshman, and I feel like I have learned a lot coming out of this meet.”

Along with her record-breaking performance in the 800 relay, Barth finished eighth in the A finals of the 200 backstroke.

Barth said the attitude of all the competitors made the feeling of standing atop the medal stand even more special and exciting.

“Getting the awards is a unique experience, because all the competitors hug or shake hands as they congratulate each other,” Barth said. “I am honored to represent my family, my team and Oklahoma Christian.”

Along with the team and individual accolades, the one who built and trained the team for excellence was recognized by the conference for his effort and achievement. Head Coach Josh Davis was named as the men’s co-coach of the year.

Hawes said Coach Davis not only coaches the swimmers, he mentors them, which makes all the difference and points toward him deserving this honor from the conference.

“I would describe Coach Davis as more than a coach,” Hawes said. “He cares about our swimming, but he cares about us as students as well. One virtue he continually reminds us of is gratefulness.”

McKinnon said Coach Davis’s unique style and approach to coaching makes the swimmers push to perform their best in every situation.

“Coach Davis is the most unique and passionate coach I have ever had the privilege to swim for,” McKinnon said. “He is so laid back and has so much trust in us to train and recover to the best of our ability and also knows how to keep us all in check and stay focused. When they called his name for coach of the year, no other coach is more deserving of the award.”

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