Last weekend, junior Stephen Culberson of the Trinity men’s swimming team won the 100-yard freestyle event at the NCAA Swimming and Diving Championships with a time of 44.18. He also had the best time in the preliminaries earlier that morning, with a time off 44.29 seconds.
Culberson is the first Trinity swimmer to win a national championship. The men’s team tied Calvin College for 21st place overall, and the women’s team placed 24th overall.
“Well, my initial goal was just to make it, so I was really happy just making it, and once I got there I really wanted to get top eight because that’s the All-American award,” Culberson said. “I just put it all out on the line in the morning preliminaries; I was pretty surprised when I got first seed and that was when it hit me and I thought, “˜I could actually win this thing.’ I knew it was going to be difficult, but I just relied on my training to get me home and it worked out.”
The men’s relay team of Culberson, first year Isaac Johnson and juniors Adam Thomas and Kevin Thomas finished 17th in the 400-yd freestyle relay with a time of 3:03.90, barely missing the consolation final for Honorable Mention All-American.
“Next year we want to do a lot better. Just going to the meet, getting the jitters out and being in that environment was really great. We now have nationals’ veterans; it’s a really good step for our program. Now it’s not about making nationals, it’s about scoring at nationals, moving up in the team ranks. Maybe that’ll leave a little bit of a chip on their shoulders, that we didn’t get a top-20 team finish,” said assistant coach Michael Schuber. “I think that it’s very possible next year, especially with the recruits that we have coming in and with the talent that we have returning, and also with the change in mindset about what our potential is and what our expectations are for ourselves. I’m very proud of everyone, and I think that it is easy to focus on Stephen’s win but I think Stephen’s success is really a sign of our whole team’s success.”
Sophomore Kara Beauchamp also barely missed the consolation final of the women’s 200-yard breaststroke, finishing 17th with a time of 2:21.04.
“Wednesday was the 200 IM for me; it was okay, I added time,” Beauchamp said. “It’s hard to taper for conference and then build back up and then taper again perfectly for nationals. Overall it was a really great experience, and I’m really excited for next season because I know that we can accomplish even more.”
Sophomore women’s diver Ashley Heline received Honorable Mention All-American for the second time in the meet. She placed ninth on the 3-meter board, scoring 456.85 points and placed twelfth in the 1-meter board with 389.70 points. Senior Katie Sheldon finished eighth on the 1-meter board with 407.9 points.
“We’re looking to establish more of our prominence at a national level,” Culberson said. “We’re tired of just being a conference champion program. I’m really excited about next year, and I think everyone else is, too. It was a really good first step just getting people there. I’m just really proud of the team and the way they stepped it up. We went from being a team with only one coach for half the year to being successful at a national level, and no one had really even heard of us before we got there, and I think that’s changed and I’m really looking forward to next year.”
Culberson also became only the sixth NCAA champion in an individual sport in Trinity’s history.