Whitaker, Pimer, and Fabian receive major LEC Swim Honors
NORTH DARTMOUTH, Mass. – Keene State College and Westfield State University split the annual Little East women's swimming and diving major awards program for the 2012 season this afternoon, when the conference office announced the results from the eight coaches' votes. Keene State senior Jillian Whitaker (Gilford, N.H.) was named the Swimmer of the Year, and freshman teammate Diana Pimer (West Haven, Conn.) was selected as the Rookie Swimmer of the Year. Westfield State senior Kim Schmidt (Longmeadow, Mass.) was chosen as the Diver of the Year, and freshman Katie Sterpka (Barkhamsted, Conn.) was elected the Rookie Diver of the Year. KSC's Jack Fabian was tabbed the Coach of the Year by his peers, while Westfield State earned the Team Sportsmanship Award to complete the major awards program.
"I'm really happy for Jillian and Diana. I know the recognition from the conference means a lot to them," said Fabian. "They take being a part of the LEC very seriously."
Fabian is just as proud of Whitaker and Pimer for their work in the classroom. "They're doing it the right. It shows you can have success in both areas, he said. "It's nice when athletes like Jillian and Diana get awards because it sets a great example.
Whitaker is making her second appearance as a conference major award winner after earning the top rookie swimmer honor in 2009. The senior from Guilford, N.H. is the third Owl to win the top swimmer award, joining Kayla Umbarger (2011) and Kristine Trutor (2009, 2010). Whitaker made her debut as an individual competitor and third overall appearance at the NCAA Division III Men's and Women's Swimming and Diving Championships this winter, qualifying in the 100 breaststroke event. She placed 20th overall in the national field after touching the wall at one minute, 6.14 seconds. Whitaker earned the New England Intercollegiate Swimming and Diving Association (NEISDA) Senior-High Point Award for her performance during the three-day meet. She established two NEISDA and Keene State records in the 50 and 100 breaststroke events. Whitaker captured the 50 breaststroke by tripping the timer at 26.59 seconds, while posting the sixth fastest time in Division III in the 100 breaststroke (1:03.98). She set a new conference championship standard and won a pair of races to help the Owls raise their sixth straight Little East team trophy. Whitaker broke her own previous mark in the 100 breaststroke (1:06.52). She was named the Little East Swimmer of the Week three times during the campaign.
"No one wants their last season to come to and end, but at the same time I couldn't be happier with how everything happened," said Whitaker. "Everything about it was really great."
Whitaker said qualifying for an individual event at the NCAA championships one of her many highlights during the season. "I've always qualified on the relays, so knowing I could make it on my own was a tremendous accomplishment."
Pimer is the third Keene State women's student-athlete to earn the top rookie swimmer award and first since Umbarger in 2010. The freshman from West Haven, Conn. set the Keene State program record when she captured the 200 individual medley at the NEISDA Championships. Pimer posted the fastest time in program history when she touched the wall at two minutes, 10.15 seconds. Pimer also garnered All-NEISDA honors in the 400 individual medley (2nd, 4:37.67) and 200 breaststroke (3rd, 2:25.15). She established two championship meet records in her debut at the Little East Championship in the 200 breaststroke and 200 individual medley. Primer shattered the 200 IM record (2:12.43), putting an additional 3.21 seconds between the previous mark. She was also the first swimmer to complete the 200 breaststroke in 2 minutes, 25.33 seconds. Primer was selected as the Little East Rookie Swimmer of the Week six times on the campaign.
"I wasn't expecting to get an award like this It feels awesome," said Pimer. "I knew coming to Keene State that Jack would be the coach that would help me swim faster."
Pimer said her top freshmen season highlight came at the NESIDA championships when she earned a spot on the Owls' relay teams. "Being an individual medley swimmer it's very difficult to make it on the relays because you're not necessarily good at one specific stroke," she said. "So I got to be on both medley relays and the two free style relays so that was very special to me."
Fabian is making his third consecutive appearance as the top coach in the conference. Keene State broke several program records and posted two NCAA provisional cut times en route to finishing second in the team standings at the annual NEISDA Championship. Fabian mentored a pair of student-athletes that qualified for the 2012 NCAA Division III meet. Whitaker competed in the 100 breaststroke, while classmate Maureen O'Leary (Nashua, N.H.) served as an alternate. O'Leary produced her NCAA time at the NEISDA Championships, when she won the 200 butterfly race in two minutes, 6.54 seconds. The Owls cruised to their sixth straight Little East Championship team title, recording the second highest point total (588). Keene State won 12 of the 16 individual races and the 400 freestyle team relay titles. The Owls placed five members on the 2011-12 Little East Winter All-Academic Teams.
Asked about being named LEC Coach of the year, Fabian said, "It's easy with this group. "I couldn't ask for a more hard-working and dedicated team."