2017 NAIA National Championship Fan Guide: Women’s Meet

2017 NAIA National Championships – Women’s Meet

The 2017 NAIA Women’s Swimming and Diving National Championship will get underway on Wednesday, March 1st at the Columbus Aquatic Center, in Columbus, Georgia. The NAIA, which governs the athletic programs of smaller colleges and universities, will bring together over 200 athletes from 29 schools to compete in this national championship meet.

After last year’s 250-point win over Olivet Nazarene University, the NAIA title is the Savannah College of Art and Design’s (SCAD’s) to defend, but Olivet Nazarene, Brenau, and Biola should be major players in the fight for the national title.

This time around, the national championship schedule has been shaken up a bit; the NAIA National Championship now nearly mirrors the NCAA national championship format with the 800 free relays alone on day one.

It’s also worth noting that seed times are a little tricky here, as many teams haven’t yet had the chance to swim fully tapered, unlike NCAA swimmers going into their championships, most of whom have swam a rested conference about a month before.



Only Olivet Nazarene and the Cumberlands have divers in the meet, so both will grab a 40-50 point edge over the competition outside of the racing pool.


SCAD senior Julie Woody, who tied for third last year in the 50, is the top seed in the 50 freestyle (23.01) and second in the 100 freestyle (51.17). In both races, her main competition will be Biola junior, 100 free defending champion, and last year’s 50 runner-up Lisa Tixier, who comes into the 100 freestyle as the top seed (51.13) and the 50 as the second seed (23.55). The two are in a league of their own in the sprint free events, coming in seeded about a third of a second ahead of the competition.

SCAD sophomore Abigail Richey won a national championship last year in the 200 free, and she will be fighting to defend her title (1:52.70), but she will need to hold off South African Grand Prix A finalist and Lindsey Wilson freshman standout Jessica Macdonald, who comes in with 1:53.86. The duo should be in the mix in the 100 as well, where Macdonald is seeded third (52.46) and Richey is seeded fourth (52.70).

The 500 free is shaping up to be one of the races-to-watch of the meet. Three-time defending champion Courtney Hayward of Brenau will look to round out her college career with a perfect NAIA 500 free record, coming in seeded first with 5:00.77 (she won the event in 4:56.34 last year). However, NAIA newcomer and Morningside junior Suzanna Gonzalez has been shaking up the college’s record board all season, capturing the “Swimmer of the Meet” title at this month’s Liberal Arts Championships. She is seeded second with 5:01.43, and she will be looking to capture the school’s first-ever finish in the top four. Also in the mix will be last year’s third-place finisher, Richey (5:01.97).

The mile will feature another showdown between Hayward, last year’s runner-up, and Gonzalez. Hayward comes in with 17:14.67 (and she finished in 17:02.54 last year), so Gonzalez will have to see a big time drop to challenge her, as she comes in with 17:32.53. Also seeded under eighteen minutes is ONU sophomore Sierra Rhodes, who finished sixth last year.


The 100 backstroke will be a classic showdown between the upperclassmen of Olivet Nazarene and SCAD, as defending champion, last season’s NAIA Female Swimmer of the Year, and Olivet Nazarene junior Amanda Moran (56.38) will fight to hold off SCAD’s senior sprint talent Julie Woody (56.43). Moran should have the edge here, as she has gone 55.10. Woody finished sixth last season with 58.49.

The third-place spot is up for grabs among Brenau’s Lindsay Dowling(57.99), SCAD’s Julie Henninger (58.34), Columbia College’s Cydney Donnelley (58.39), Biola’s Rachel Stinchcomb , and Lindenwood University-Belleville’s Claire Featherstone (58.54).

The 200 backstroke is defending champion Moran’s to lose, as she comes in seeded nearly five seconds ahead of the field with 1:59.48. She will be chasing down NAIA great Cheyenne Coffman of Fresno Pacific’s meet record of 1:58.20 set back in 2012.


In another tight battle, Olivet Nazarene sophomore and last year’s runner-up Andrea Vega (1:04.36) and SCAD sophomore Sara Lacusky (1:04.60) will take on the 100 breast, but keep your eyes on defending champion Ronni Borders of Lindsey Wilson, who comes in seeded third with 1:05.52, but won the event last year in 1:03.47.

Lacusky (2:23.64) and last year’s runner-up Vega (2:23.65) will clash again in the 200 breast. But, Lindsey Wilson’s freshman 2014 FINA World Cup – Dubai finalist Ines Khiyara is sure to be in the mix (2:23.64). The trio come in separated by just .02 seconds. Also fighting for a spot in the top three will be last year’s consolation final winner Kirst Coetzee of Life (2:24.64).


Biola’s defending champion Lisa Tixier is the number one seed in the 100 fly (55.72), coming in seeded over a second ahead of SCAD freshman-junior duo Lydia Reinhardt (56.76) and Cadie Crow (56.89).

Reinhardt is dominant in the 200 fly, coming in seeded faster than last year’s winning time, with 2:03.26.

Individual Medley

Biola’s Lisa Tixier (who appears on the psych sheet in four different individual events, but will likely have to drop one of them), is seeded well ahead of the competition in the 200 IM with 2:04.05. Christina Klouda of the Cumberlands (2:08.20) and SCAD’s Rebecca Justus (2:09.25) will fight to hold off Justus’s SCAD teammate Sara Lacusky (2:09.77) and Biola’s freshman teammate Rachel Stinchcomb (2:09.94).

Justus, last year’s third-place finisher, comes into the 400 IM with a definitive edge (4:29.69). Klouda (4:33.00) will also be fighting her way to the top, as will defending champion and senior Courtney Hayward of Brenau (4:33.56), who won the event last year in 4:26.30.

4-Day Schedule

800 Freestyle Relay

200 Free Relay
500 Freestyle
200 Individual Medley
50 Freestyle
400 Medley Relay
1 Meter Diving (Women)

200 Medley Relay
400 IM
100 Fly
200 Freestyle
100 Breaststroke
100 Backstroke
3-Meter Diving (Women & Men)

1-Meter Diving
1650 Freestyle
200 Backstroke
100 Freestyle
200 Breaststroke
200 Butterfly
1 Meter Diving (Men)
400 Freestyle Relay

“The National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA), headquartered in Kansas City, Mo., is a governing body of small athletics programs that are dedicated to character-driven intercollegiate athletics.

In 2000, the NAIA reaffirmed its purpose to enhance the character building aspects of sport. Through Champions of Character, the NAIA seeks to create an environment in which every student-athlete, coach, official and spectator is committed to the true spirit of competition through five core values.”

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About Hannah Hecht

Hannah Hecht

Hannah Hecht grew up in Kansas and spent most of her childhood trying to convince coaches to let her swim backstroke in freestyle sets. She took her passion to Morningside College in Sioux City, Iowa and swam at NAIA Nationals all four years. After graduating in 2015, she moved to …

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