Swimming season officially started for Oklahoma Christian University as athletes dove into competition at the Shawnee Invitational hosted by Oklahoma Baptist University Sept. 22.
Oklahoma Christian competed against three teams, including Tabor College, Barton Community College and the host team Oklahoma Baptist. Out of the four teams participating, Oklahoma Christian finished in second place.
“I was impressed with how we did as a group,” freshman Andrew Assaleh said. “With such an inexperienced team, I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect, but to get second out of four teams is a promising result for such a young program.”
The university announced the addition of men’s and women’s swimming to Eagles’ varsity athletics in June 2016. Now, over a year later, Coach Josh Davis’s teams competed for the first time in school history, which Assaleh described as a “memory to cherish forever.”
“The adrenaline rush that comes with races at swim meets is like no other, so to be back in the pool and to get to show off all the hard work you put in always gives a rewarding feeling,” Assaleh said. “It was really fun to be a part of such a special moment in this athletic program’s history.”
For the Oklahoma Christian men’s swimming team, 36 athletes competed in their inaugural collegiate debut. The women’s team brought 15 swimmers to the invitational. After the performance Friday, Oklahoma Christian women’s team was picked sixth and the men’s team was picked fifth in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference preseason poll.
In the men’s 200-yard medley relay, the first event of the invitational, Oklahoma Christian entered five teams into the event. The top team for the Eagles, placing third in the medley relay with a time of 1:39.18, included four freshmen: Justin Carey swam the backstroke, Dylan Ingram swam the breaststroke, Ryan Jennings swam the butterfly and Derek Duckworth closed the relay with the freestyle.
For the first race of the season, Oklahoma Christian women’s swim team competed with two teams in the 200-yard medley relay. Finishing just eight seconds apart, the Eagles took third and fourth behind Oklahoma Baptist in the relay. The third-place finishers, with a time of 1:58.41, included four freshmen women: Heidi Fritscher swam the backstroke, Allison DeWeirt swam the breaststroke, Ashley Harmon swam the butterfly and Jamie McGarringle rounded out the relay with the freestyle.
Freshman Ashley Harmon became the first Eagle to place first at the invitational when she recorded the top finishing time in the 200-yard freestyle in 1:58.89. This was not her only first of the day, Harmon also recorded a first-place finish in the 1000-yard freestyle with a time of 10:50.94. Harmon rounded out her individual competition with second place in the 500-yard freestyle. For her performance at the invitational, Harmon was named Eagle of the Week.
Freshman Dakota Giddens recorded the top individual finish for the Oklahoma Christian men’s swim team. Giddens placed second in the 100-yard backstroke in 56.48 seconds.
Duckworth tied with an Oklahoma Baptist swimmer for third in the 50-yard freestyle. Eleven Eagles competed in this race and all finished under 30 seconds. In the women’s 50-yard freestyle, McGarringle recorded the top time for Oklahoma Christian, finishing the race in 25.62 for fifth out of 17 swimmers.
For the men’s 200-yard individual medley, four Eagle swimmers, all freshmen, finished in the top 10. Brittan Butler placed sixth, Assaleh finished seventh, Ian Galindo placed eighth and Brandon Hundley came in at ninth.
Freshman Hanna Forbat recorded a third-place finish with a time of 2:18.80 in the women’s 200-yard individual medley.
The 100-yard butterfly race showcased Oklahoma Christian freshman Ryan Jennings in fourth place out of 14 with a time of 54.49. For the women’s race, the Eagles’ top finisher was freshman Rachel Brumfield, who recorded a third-place finish in 1:03.28.
Oklahoma Christian closed out the invitational with a fourth place finish in the men’s 200-yard freestyle relay and the women finished third in the 200-yard freestyle relay.
For the first swim meet of the season, Assaleh said his favorite part of the meet was the huge amount of Oklahoma Christian supporters in attendance.
“In high school, we were lucky if a single student showed up that wasn’t on the team, so to have as much support as we did and even get President John deSteiguer to show up was truly outstanding,” Assaleh said.
Both the men’s and women’s swim team will travel to Lewisville, TX Sept. 29 to compete in the North Texas Relays, which will include competition against Division I schools.
A complete list of events and time finishes can be found online.
Statistics provided by the Oklahoma Christian University Sports Information office.