Whitman sends two to swimming championships

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WALLA WALLA - Whitman College is sending not one, but two swimmers to the NCAA Division III national swim championships later this month in Indianapolis.

Galen Sollom-Brotherton punched his ticket to nationals during last month's Northwest Conference championships, winning the 1,650-yard freestyle in 15:35.53, which met the automatic qualifying standard.

But Karl Mering, who posted a provisional qualifying time (49.70) in winning the 100-yard butterfly at the NWC championships, was left twisting in limbo until getting the news earlier this week:

His time made the final cut for nationals.

The national finals are set for March 21-24 at the Indiana Natatorium in Indianapolis.

Sollom-Brotherton and Mering will be the first Whitman men to compete in the NCAA DIII national championships.

Prior to 1995, Whitman routinely qualified several swimmers (men and women) each year for the NAIA national championships.

But when Whitman and other NWC schools shifted their athletic affiliation that year to NCAA DIII, the prospect of landing spots at the national swimming championships became a much more daunting task.

Whitman's Erin Pettersen finally broke through in March of 2008, capping her senior season when one of her provisional qualifying times made the final cut for nationals.

Swimmers who qualify for nationals in one event can swim in as many as three races.

Sollom-Brotherton's best shot at All-American honors (top eight) will come in the 1,650, where his winning effort in the NWC finals is the second-best NCAA DIII time posted this season.

He will also swim in the 500-yard freestyle, where he has the nation's fifth-best time, and in the 400-yard individual medley, where he ranks 12th.

Mering, the only freshman in the country to post a qualifying time in the 100-yard butterfly, ranks 16th in that event. His time is less than four-tenths of a second out of the eighth spot, however, and less than a minute out of the second spot.

Mering will also swim in the 200-yard butterfly, where his time (1:52.18) ranks him 22nd among those swimming at nationals.

His third event is the 50-yard freestsyle, an event where elite swimmers are separated by hundredths of a second. His time (20.93) ranks 37th among competitors at nationals, but three-tenths of a second is all that separates him from the top 16.

While the news was good for Mering when the final cuts for nationals were announced, that wasn't the case for a handful of other Whitman swimmers.

A provisional qualifying time posted by junior Katie Chapman fell short in the women's 200-yard butterfly.

Sollom-Brotherton and Mering also teamed with senior Mitchell Lee and freshman Kevin O'Leary to post a provisional time in the 800-yard freestyle while winning that event at the NWC championships.

Their time (6:51.37) would have made nationals a year ago - but not this year. Once qualifying events finished around the country, the Whitman quartet had the 20th-best time, and only the top 16 teams made the cut.

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