Coach Blair Bachman, Brenau Swim Team

Swim team makes big splash with No. 8 national ranking

Junior Hannah Bourdreaux
Junior Hannah Bourdreaux, part of the growing ‘Cajun connection’ on the ‘Brenaux’ swim team, turned in an extraordinary tournament performance at national that raised Brenau in the rankings and earned her All-American honors.

On the third and final day of the NAIA National Championships in Oklahoma City March 3, the Brenau University swim team made history placing 8th overall. This was, of course, the university’s highest finish in the swimming and diving championships, ending a season in which only five of 18 school swimming records remained unbroken. But the historic footnote here is that the team is so small that, in the championship, the Tigers, still in building mode, did not qualify as many swimmers as they possibly could have in each event in the meet. Although a full complement for a nationals team is 18 members, Brenau put five in the pool.

Those who did swim, however, swam incredibly well, finishing second in the nation in two events and in the top 10 in most others. Junior Hannah Boudreaux, a health science major from Lafayette, La., topped off her sensational weekend racing a close second in the 200-yard Fly (2:05.38) in the final heat, setting a school record and gaining All American status in the process. Boudreaux’s Lafayette “home girl,” freshman business major Michelle Billeaud, made her mark in the 200-yard Back (2:10.23) placing 10th. Meredith Barrington, a freshman from Macon, Ga., also majoring in business, set a personal best and placed 10th in the 200-yard Fly (2:15.00). Senior Julia Ferreira, a history and political science major from Indaiatuba, São Paulo, Brazil, placed fifth in the 100-yard backstroke. Finally, the 400-yard Free Relay team of Boudreaux, Billeaud, Barrington and junior business major Lisa Portwood from Marietta, Ga., finished strong (3:35.08), setting another school record and the capturing 7th place.

In addition to the NAIA All-America honor, the College Swimming Coaches Association of America named Boudreaux to its All-America team along with honorable mentions for Billeaud and four relay team performances.

“I have the privilege of coaching the most amazing and talented women,” says Head Coach Blaire Bachman. “This was our highest national ranking to date, and each member of the team deserves the credit for this accomplishment. Hard work for seven months led us to this big moment, and it was worth it.”

Under NAIA championship rules, swimmers have to finishing in the top 16 in preliminary qualifying swims for the finals, and if they’re fast enough, more than one swimmer from a team can qualify. It’s in the finals that team points accrue, based on how  each swimmer performs. And, since your final ranking depends on the total number of points you scored, the more the merrier.

That number was a school record, says Bachman, but it was still small enough to get people playing the “what-if” game. “We’re looking to expand our depth in the events,” the coach says. She loses two seniors from her 2012 varsity roster of nine, but had a successful recruiting season. She picked up several promising first-year prospects. They include two more from Boudreaux and Bell’s Cajun country backyard – Rachel Kendrick, a Layton, Utah, native who finished high school with a 4.0 average (not to mention great performances in cross country, tennis and soccer) in Pineville, La., and Mary Katherine L. Jabbia, from Slidell; two Floridians – butterfly and distance swimmer Kathleen Rossi from Clearwater, and Mary Sinatra from Tallahassee, who helped her high school team win the state championship last year;  distance swimmer Petra Hanrahan from Pinckney, Mich.; and Ali Watkins of Grayson, Ga., a qualifier in the highly competitive Georgia high school state championships the past three years.

“We started extremely small two years ago with six women, but we are definitely growing,” Bachman says. “Now, our quality trumps quantity, which enables us to place so high in nationals and regular season invitationals. It is absolutely possible to beat a team with a roster of 18 with as few as 15 swimmers. We’re doing our best at Brenau to put high-quality, All-American-class swimmers on this team.”

For more information about the 2012 season, check out the Tigers swim team Web page at www.brenautigers.com.

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