PALATINE HILL -- The Lewis & Clark Pioneers will enter the 2017-18 season with five of their returning All-Northwest Conference selections and positive momentum from last year's NWC Championships. The women's team was sixth and the men's team took seventh, giving both their best finishes since 2014 at the conference meet.
Lucia Brammer is one of three returning seniors for the Pioneers. Swimming primarily in the spring, she set three of her best times of the season at the NWC Championships and is expected to provide an excellent level of competition in the butterfly and individual medley this year. Similarly, Anna James posted three of her best times at the conference meet and is seeking to end her fourth season with the team on a high note. Alex Raphael is a team captain and will provide daily leadership and depth in the breaststroke and freestyle. She set three top marks at last year's NWC Championships. Along with James, Raphael was a team representative on the Lewis & Clark Student-Athlete Advisory Committee last year.
Kassie Kometani received All-NWC First-Team honors in the 50 and 100 Freestyle at the end of last season and is the top returning women's sprinter in the NWC. Expected to lead all of the team's relays, Kometani has been named team captain and is involved in SAAC at Lewis & Clark and the Northwest Conference level. Anna DePaepe returns for her third season after competing in nine different events last season. She set high-water marks thrice at the NWC Championships. Claire Megna is training with the distance group through the fall and will contribute in many races this season. Along with three season-best times at conference last season, Megna also raced to her fastest 1,000 Freestyle time in the team's dual with Linfield. Eleanor Gerrior earned an All-NWC Second-Team nod after placing sixth in the 50 Freestyle at the championships last year. She set new career bests in all of her events as a sophomore.
Sam Duran leads the returning sophomore class after a powerhouse showing at her first NWC Championships. She finished eighth in the 100 Butterfly and 100 Backstroke finals in the event and was named All-NWC Second Team. Duran won three events twice during NWC duals last season. Liora Gonicman competed in eight events as a freshman and will continue to swim a lot of backstroke and freestyle this season. She posted her best marks in the 100 Backstroke and 100 Breaststroke at conference last year. Claire Greene provided a ton of versatility as a freshman and will be more focused on individual medley and distance freestyle this year. She had four season-best marks at the NWC Championships. Emily Skaggs trained hard in distance freestyle in her first year and set lifetime bests. She was a top-16 finisher at conference in the 1,650 Freestyle last year.
Six freshmen join the team this season. Grace Anderson is from Shorewood, Wisc. where she was a team captain. She is expected to compete in mid-distance and distance freestyle. Julia Brandt has six school records at Red Bluff High School (Calif.) and will be in freestyle and backstroke events this season. Brandt selected Lewis & Clark because of its unique environment. Margot Chirayath is a two-time team most-valuable swimmer out of Auburn, Maine, who has shown tremendous progress in butterfly races through practice this season. From Lakewood, Calif., Erin Khong provides additional versatility and should factor into breaststroke and individual medley races as a freshman. Sabrina Murray is a top distance freestyler who will contribute heavily on relays. She was an MVP and coaches award winner out of University Place, Wash. Kasia Preski is from Chicago and is capable of doing all of the events. She picked Lewis & Clark, in part, because of the campus and where it's located.
Kevin Fox is a men's team captain as one of the Pios' four returning seniors. Fox had a career-best year as a junior, capped off by a top mark at the NWC Championships in the 100 Butterfly last year. Jonathan Torres also had lifetime bests as a junior and will help in the distance races this year. A Lewis & Clark SAAC officer, Torres had three top marks of the season in last year's finale. Jack Bergamini raced to season bests in sprint freestyle at the conference meet as a junior and continues to be one of the team's hardest workers. He'll compete in freestyle and breaststroke this year while also serving as a SAAC officer. Miles French is training strongly so far this season and is one of the team's top breaststroke and individual medley swimmers. He is a team captain.
Among the junior class, August Bergh finished third in the 500 Freestyle at the NWC Championships last season and earned an All-NWC First-Team pick. He was a second-team selection in two events as a freshman. Bergh returns as the NWC's second-best 500 Freestyle and was Lewis & Clark's top scorer last season. Nathan Beirne was his fastest in three events at last year's conference meet and continues to improve through hard work. Sam Bundenthal will compete in backstroke and medley relays this season. He had season bests at the NWC Championships in the 200 Freestyle and 100 and 200 Backstroke races. Rowan Gannon is a team captain and provides significant energy to the team. Off a successful sophomore campaign, Gannon will look to improve on three season bests at conference last season.
Matt Jackson scored the third-most points for the Pios as a freshman last season and will return as a key competitor in the breaststroke, butterfly and individual medley. He was part of the team's school-record setting medley relay team last year. William Witmer was a top 100 breaststroke competitor in the NWC last year and was also part of the medley relay record. He'll swim in the breaststroke and short freestyle races. Matthew Bress made big improvements throughout his freshman season and is training with the distance group. He competed in nine events last year, setting four personal bests at the NWC Championships. Sam Raphael may see a variety of events in addition to sprint freestyle in his second year. A source of energy for the team, Raphael set three top times at conference. Ben Virgin set three top marks at the NWCs and will continue to contribute in the distance races. He competed in seven different events as a freshman.
The Pioneers gain a lot of talent through their six-person freshman class. Andrew Butcher joins the team from Seattle, where he broke three school records and was one of the top freestylers in the state of Washington. He should compete with the top sprinters in the NWC during his first year. Zach Lebovic picked Lewis & Clark because it is "a great school in a cool city." From Dana Point, Calif., Lebovic will swim breaststroke, butterfly and sprint. Kyle Monteleone is a high school All-American out of Aliso Viejo, Calif. who is expected to compete near the top of the NWC in three different strokes. He'll also enhance the team's relay teams. Ben Salinger is a walk-on from Denver who will compete in freestyle and breaststroke. Ian Shepel joins the team from Bethesda, Md. where he was part of a championship team. He'll provide a strong presence in backstroke, freestyle and medley. Sam Smith will most likely compete in the breaststroke during his first year. He was a three-time MVP in Sewanee, Tenn. who picked Lewis & Clark because of its strength in environmental studies and biology and outdoor programs.
Lewis & Clark opens on Friday and Saturday with home duals against Puget Sound and Pacific Lutheran, respectively. The following weekend, the Pioneers travel to Whitworth and Whitman before the 2017 portion of the schedule ends with the Logger Invite in Tacoma, Wash. on Dec. 1-3.
The team will celebrate Senior Night during a dual against Willamette on Jan. 19 followed by back-to-back road duals at Linfield and Pacific on Jan. 20 and Jan. 27, respectively. The Northwest Conference Championships will be held in Federal Way, Wash. on Feb. 9-11. The schedule wraps up on Feb. 17 with the Puget Sound Finale.