South Africans Dominate Day 1 at NJCAA Championships

2018-2019 NJCAA Swimming & Diving Championships

  • March 6th-9th, 2019
  • Burt Flickinger Athletic Center, Buffalo, New York
  • Video
  • Live Results on Meet Mobile
  • Day 1 Results PDF

Indian River State College entered the 2019 NJCAA Swimming & Diving Championships with a 36-year women’s title streak and 45-year men’s title streak on the line, and if day 1’s results are any indicator, the Pioneers are well on their way to adding 2 more trophies to their cases.

The NJCAA is an organization founded over 80 years ago that includes community college and junior college athletic departments from 24 states across the country. Swimming numbers have been dwindling in recent years as a result of program cuts, and are now mostly located in the central and eastern United States, but the country’s dominant program, Indian River, is still going strong.

The first day of the meet felt a significant influence from an influx of South Africans into the league: most of the day’s races were won by swimmers from that country.

Men’s Recap

Top 5 Teams after day 1

  1. Indian River – 333
  2. Iowa Central – 151
  3. Barton College – 110
  4. Southwestern Oregon – 109
  5. South Georgia State – 81

While the Indian River men picked up 5 wins on Thursday, they did not start out the day with a win. In the first men’s final, Iowa Central’s Emile Lutzeler won the 50 breaststroke in 25.43, which will be one of the few non-IRSC wins of the meet. The freshman from South Africa was only 2nd in prelims, behind a 25.30 from Indian River’s Eric Veit, but Veit added 3-tenths of a second to place 2nd in the race.

Other than that, it was all Indian River Pioneers at the top of podiums (though Iowa Central showed depth in some places to indicate that maybe there’s an ever-so-slight shifting of the tide in the NJCAA).

Indian River’s Connor Lynch won the next event, the 1000 free, in 9:29.04, and the team was off on their way to a sweep of the rest of the day’s events. For Lynch, that time is an 8-seccond improvement over his 4th-place finish last year. He was followed by a 2-3 finish from Iowa Central’s Vini Molz (9:31.26) and Marcelo Busch (9:36.05).

Indian River then broke the meet wide open in the next race, the 200 IM, when they went 1-2-3-4-5. That was led by freshman Jarryd Baxter, who won handily in 1:47.85. That’s about a second shy of the 1:46.73 that he swam mid-season to break the NJCAA Record. Baxter, who originally committed to Auburn, is a former South African National Champion (the NJCAA has become a frequent first landing spot in the US for South African swimmers looking to matriculate to the NCAA).

Baxter didn’t swim the 1000 free, in spite of breaking the NJCAA record by over 12 seconds in November.

Last year’s 50 breaststroke champion Ruben van Leeuwen of Indian River shifted to the 50 free this year, but came away with the same result: another title, finishing in 19.91. Indian River had 3 off the top 4 finishers in the race, giving them a big upper-hand in the 200 free relay later in the meet.

Closing day 1, though, was the longer 800 free relay, and Indian River was hugely dominant, wining by nearly 30 seconds. With van Leeuwen leading off in a 1:36.53 and followed by Joshua Stegen (1:38.11), Tiger Pilkington (1:38.08), and Baxter (1:37.29). That just missed their NJCAA Record of 6:29.82 that was set mid-season with the same relay in a different order.

Iowa Central took 2nd in 6:59.92.

Indian River finished 1-2-3 on the men’s 3-meter, with only 4 participants. Matt Priola won with a score of 500.10.

Women’s Recap

Top 5 Teams After Day 2:

  1. Indian River – 304
  2. Iowa Central – 116
  3. South Georgia State College – 107
  4. Barton Community College – 102
  5. Southwestern Oregon CC – 94

The Indian River women, meanwhile, were unblemished on the day, winning all 5 events on the schedule. That started with freshman Savanna Best, who swam a 28.77 in the 50 breaststroke final.

Both her finals time, and her faster prelims time of 28.45, bettered the NJCAA Record of 28.84 set by Courtney Perrett in 2017. Perrett (another South African) is now at Ohio University.

Next up came Charlise Oberholzer, another South African, in the 1000 free, which she won in 10:22.47. Her teammate Molly Layde finished 2nd in 10:25.22. Layde held the lead at 800 yards, but Oberholzer iniched away over the last 4 laps to win the race.

The trend continued with another South African winner in the women’s 200 IM: Savanna Best, who doubled up on her earlier win in the 50 breast. She swam a 2:03.40, which led a 1-2-3-3 (tied) finish from Indian River.

The first women’s event of the day not won by a South African went to Elianna Kennon in the 50 free in a winning mark of 23.54. That led another 1-2-3-4 finish for the Pioneers. She was 5th in this race last season in 24.29.

The Indian River women finished the day with a 7:34.49 win in the 800 free relay, which like the men was almost a 30 second margin of victory. That relay included Sule van der Merwe (1:52.62), Camryn Wheals (1:51.87), Camryn Hudson (1:54.97), and Elizabeth Watts (1:55.03).

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river fight
5 years ago

Jarryd Baxter is a freshman.

Courtney Stewart
5 years ago


5 years ago


Max Mitchell
5 years ago

Keep dominating IRSC. River Strong!

About Braden Keith

Braden Keith

Braden Keith is the Editor-in-Chief and a co-founder/co-owner of He first got his feet wet by building The Swimmers' Circle beginning in January 2010, and now comes to SwimSwam to use that experience and help build a new leader in the sport of swimming. Aside from his life on the InterWet, …

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