Following a very fast weekend of swimming, a pair of Alaska Nanooks rank highly among the best in NCAA Division II as the duo are in the top 15 in a combined five individual events.
Junior Bente Heller (Hamburg, Germany/Psychology) is currently the No. 1 swimmer in the country in the 100 freestyle after she smashed the varsity record at last weekend’s Husky Invitational with a time of 50.28 seconds. That time is only six-one hundredths of a second off the automatic qualifying mark for the NCAA Championship. This is the first time in program history an individual was the top-ranked swimmer in any event.
Heller cracks the top 10 in the 200 free as she is ninth with a time of 1:51.62 and is also tied for 11th in the 50 free in 23.59 seconds. Both times exceed the NCAA B-cut qualifying standard.
“In my mind, she is the best sprinter in the country,” head coach Scott Lemley said. “It’s taken two years to prove that to be true but she had to believe it first. Bente is so humble that she wouldn’t let herself believe that she was the fastest swimmer in the nation but now there’s proof.
Sophomore Margot Adams (Anchorage, Alaska/Political science) is one of the top-ranked butterfly swimmers after the first week of December. Last year’s national runner-up in the 100 fly is currently fourth in the nation with a time of 55.35 seconds, which is one-tenth of a second shy of the A-cut standard.
Adams is also 15th in the 200 fly with a mark of 2:06.52, which is under one second away from the varsity record set more than six years ago (2:05.37, Kelly Becker, 11/18/06).
“She almost broke the varsity record [in the 200 butterfly], which is the longest standing record the team has,” Lemley said. “She swam well but not as fast as she and I both were planning on. We have lots of work to do.”
On the relay side, all five relay tandems rank in the top 20 of Division II.
The 800 freestyle relay tops the list as it in 10th position with a time of 7:42.97. Last season, this event was the Nanooks’ best at the NCAA meet when they turned in a fourth-place showing to earn All-America status.
The other four ranked relays are the 200 medley (13th, 1:46.79), 400 freestyle (17th, 3:32.94), 200 freestyle (18th, 1:37.20) and 400 medley (20th, 3:57.30).
“We swam well as a team but as an A relay, our times were good, not great,” Lemley said. “If we’re going to do as well as last year, they have to be great. Part of that will be if Sam Taylor becomes eligible; she will be a big part of the relay.”
Following finals and the holidays, the team will trek down to Flagstaff, Ariz., for the annual training at elevation trip from Dec. 28 to Jan. 11. The Nanooks will immediately fly to Vancouver at the end of the training trip and compete against Simon Fraser and the University of Puget Sound on Jan. 12.