By Blake Moore
ADA - The Ohio Northern women's swimming and diving program finished the 2018-19 campaign with a 3-1 league record to end second in the Ohio Athletic Conference Regular Season title race and a third-place effort at the OAC Championships in Akron, securing an upper-division conference finish under first-year head coach Austin Veltman.
"This year, our swimmers and divers competed hard all season long," Veltman noted. "The athletes definitely earned the success they had this season, and I am incredibly proud of their efforts."
Veltman's team concluded the season with a 4-4 overall dual record and a 3-1 OAC record, trailing only league champion John Carroll for the top spot.
In addition, the Polar Bears ended third at the OAC Championship meet with 636 points at Ocasek Natatorium on the University of Akron campus. John Carroll won the meet with 800 team points while Mount Union took second with 723 points.
"Several swims at the OAC Championships were outstanding," Veltman remarked. "Those swims were the product of our athlete's working hard all year long, being focused every day in the pool, and managing their time successfully between athletics and academics."
"Our goal at the beginning of every season will be to win the OAC Championship. However, the larger goal in the water is to improve on the boards and get faster each season. Many of our swimmers and divers accomplished that goal, and they deserved it."
During the event, Northern claimed five OAC Championship individual event crowns and recorded 14 All-OAC performances.
Senior Kierra Watson (Brownsburg, Ind.) and juniors Libby Sartschev (Parma/Normandy) and Lauren Halle (Chandler, Ariz./Hamilton) combined for the five event champion honors, including two titles each from Watson and Halle.
Watson, the lone senior on the 2018-19 roster, concluded a stellar career after sweeping the 100 and 200 back titles at the conference championships in :57.35 and 2:06.23, respectively. The event titles were her first career OAC Championship victories and allowed the senior to lead the program with 90.5 points at the three-day competition, the most for an ONU swimmer since the 2016 OAC Championships.
Additionally, Watson earned All-OAC kudos in the 200 individual medley and in the 200 free, 400 free, and 200 medley relays.
The Brownsburg, Indiana native will graduate with 299 career OAC Championship points and as a 16-time All-Conference honoree, a two-time OAC champion, and a three-time Academic All-OAC honoree at Ohio Northern.
Meanwhile, Sartschev was tabbed the OAC Diver of the Year honoree after winning the three-meter dive competition with 282.95 points, her first career conference title. She also added All-OAC honors in the one-meter dive competition, finishing third with 304.60 points.
With her efforts, Sartschev is now a four-time All-Conference selection and owns 100 career championship points.
Halle rounded out the championship event winners after securing titles in the 200 fly and 400 individual medley competitions. She clocked a 2:10.45 to win her third consecutive 200 fly championship while she nearly bested her own ONU record with a 4:36.69 effort in the 400 IM.
Halle ended the meet with four total All-OAC honors after a third-place effort in the 200 IM and a second-place mark on the 400 free relay squad. She adds the accolade to an OAC Swimmer of the Week honor earned this season during the December 3 voting period.
Sophomore Marissa Taylor (Granite Falls, N.C./South Caldwell) and freshmen Megan Lubinski (Milford/Brighton) and Mya Parsons (Castle Rock, Colo./Arapahoe) also earned All-OAC accolades in individual events.
Taylor wrapped a 1-2 finish in the 400 IM competition, touching the wall behind Halle in 4:41.76 to take second overall. The effort marked the first All-Conference honor in an individual event for the sophomore.
Lubinski had a strong showing in her first OAC Championship meet, securing All-OAC honors in three relay events and in the 50 free final. The first-year from Milford finished the 50 free in :24.84 to secure a third-place mark.
Earlier in the season, Lubinski earned OAC Swimmer of the Week honors on January 14.
Meanwhile, Parsons clocked a 2:15.63 in the 200 fly to finish second behind Halle and complete a 1-2 sweep on the podium.
In the relay events, ONU secured All-OAC honors in the 200 free, 400 free, and 200 medley relays with runner-up performances.
Taylor, Halle, Lubinski, and Watson concluded the three-day meet with a 3:37.54 clocking in the 400 free relay for a runner-up finish.
Four Polar Bears were recognized on the 2018-19 Academic All-OAC teams for their performance in the classroom this season. Watson joined junior Katelyn Koebel (Port Clinton) and sophomores Avery Manbeck (Aldie, Va./Champe) and Sydney Johnson (Crown Point, Ind.) with the award.
Watson, a senior biology major, was named Academic All-OAC for the third time in her ONU career this season.
Koebel, a third-year pharmacy student, received Academic All-Conference honors for the first time.
She finished seventh at the 2019 OAC Championships in the 100 and 200 breast for 26 points. The junior has now tallied 56 career OAC Championship points through three appearances.
Manbeck, a second-year athletic training major, earned the accolade in her first year of award-eligibility.
After scoring nine points at the OAC Championships this season, the 2018 All-OAC honoree now has 38.5 career OAC Championship points.
Johnson, a nursing student, also garnered her first career Academic All-OAC award.
She has recorded five career OAC Championship points after placing in the 50 and 100 free events this year.
In the 2018-19 season, the Polar Bears finished tied for third at the season-opening Kenyon Relays, fifth at the Calvin (Mich.) Invitational, and sixth at the Wooster Invitational.
Meanwhile, they defeated Wilmington, Wittenberg, Mount Union and Baldwin Wallace in dual competition. Northern would fall to John Carroll, No. 2-ranked Kenyon, No. 16-ranked Case Western Reserve, and Hillsdale (Mich.) to end the year 4-4 overall and 3-1 in the OAC.
Ohio Northern concluded the year with a third-place mark at the 2019 OAC Championships with 636 points.
"We had solid contributions from our freshmen and sophomores this year," Veltman stated. "So looking ahead, with many freshmen and sophomores on both teams, it will allow us the ability to grow over the next few seasons in size. It is very exciting to think about the future of this program."