NCAA Swimming Loophole Poses Funding Challenges for Relay Team

Western finishes season strong with several National cuts at RMAC Championships

Morgan Aragon / Special to Top

Western teammates Ariel Fitch and Morgan Aragon hug after the 100 freestyle. Photo Courtesy of Kendall Aragon.

Western’s Swimming and Diving team placed 5th at RMAC (Rocky Mountain Athletic Association) Championships earlier this month in Grand Junction, CO. The Mountaineers were led by sophomore Randi Yarnell, RMAC Swimmer of the Year, RMAC Swimmer of the Meet, and 3-time 2017 RMAC Champion. Yarnell continues her training, as she has qualified for the 2017 NCAA Division II National Championships next month in Birmingham, Alabama

The sophomore swam 50.04, in the 100 freestyle, a new school and pool record. With the win, Yarnell defended her title in the 50, 100, and 200 freestyle events, winning both the 100 and 200. This year she swam the 100 fly, placing second in the event.

Frances Ivers swam her final race as a collegiate swimmer with a sixth place finish in the mile (1650). Akemi King finished in tenth place, with Taylor Bogdahn with a sixteenth place finish.

The Mountaineers dominated the second heat of finals in the 200 breastroke. Ma’alaea Lawrence led, followed by Alexandra Marsolek and Flynn Guerrieri. Freshman Hope Morris finished thirteenth overall. Samantha Martin, senior, finished her collegiate swimming career with a thirteenth place finish in the 200 back.

Yarnell wasn’t the only one to qualify for the NCAA National Championships. Diver, Jessica Anderson, punched her ticket to Alabama earlier this season. Also qualifying were Morgan Aragon, Ariel Fitch, Kate Hewson, and Yarnell in the 400 freestyle relay. Although the relay did not attain an “A-Cut,” a new NCAA rule gave the relay an opportunity to swim at Nationals next month.

The rule allows a relay team the opportunity to swim at Nationals if a member of the relay team (Yarnell) has automatically qualified in an individual event. Although the relay has qualified to travel, the NCAA will not cover travel costs for the other members of the relay team because they did not automatically qualify.

The team is excited that they had a shot to go to Nationals. The team, however, wishes that the athletic department had extra funding to send everyone to Alabama. With the NCAA loophole, the team can swim at Nationals, but it also requires individuals that have a “B Cut” to fund themselves. None of them can afford travel costs so last minute. They feel it’s a disappointment that money is what is holding some students back from this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

Western Swimming Alumni, Melissa Kemp, explains similar struggles that the Western swim team faced in the 80’s. “They never funded us either. We had relays and individual events qualify for Nationals, but no one was ever able to go,” Kemp said.

The Mountaineer ladies hope that they can start funding at the beginning of the 2017-2018 season, so that they can have a travel budget for “B-cut” swimmers and relays for next season. The NCAA’s will cover Yarnell and Anderson, but will not cover Aragon, Fitch, and Hewson.

Follow Yarnell and Anderson on as they head to Nationals next month. Division 2 National Championships are held on Mar. 7-11 in Birmingham, Alabama.