Brenau University’s Courtney Hayward won the 500 freestyle event Thursday, March 6, in the opening day of the 2014 National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics Men’s and Women’s Swimming & Diving National Championships. In her national championship performance, the freshman from Townsville, Australia, posted a winning time of 4:58.42, beating the second-place finisher, SCAD’s Caroline Lepesant, by almost two seconds. Olivet Nazarene’s Sam Elam clocked in at 5:04.81 for third place.
Hayward, who is only the second national champion in Brenau’s swimming record books behind Carol Burdges Payne in 1984, also anchored the final leg of the Brenau Golden Tigers’ impressive second-place finish in the 800 free relay behind defending national champion Oklahoma Baptist University. Hayward posted a 1:51:94 after 1:56.10 by junior Shelby Rumker from Douglas, Ga., 1:58.86, sophomore Mary Katherine Jabbia from Slidell, La., and 1:57.65 from junior Michelle Billeaud from Lafayette, La., for a total team time of 7:44.55 in the national championship relay.
The SCAD team, defending its No. 2 position in national rankings last year, finished behind the Brenau relay team by less than 3/100ths of a second.
The Brenau team, which has held onto its No. 4 national ranking since the coaches’ preseason national poll, went into the national meet after a strong second-place finish in Appalachian Swimming Conference championships. After the tournament, the ASC named Hayward “Swimmer of the Year” and Golden Tigers Swim Coach Blaire Bachman “Coach of the Year” for the third straight time. (To see full results from the conference meet, click http://www.brenautigers.com/article/1345.php.)
Based on their performance at the meet, the four Brenau swimmers will automatically qualify for All-America status.
With Hayward’s performance, the Australian also begins building a case for Golden Tigers Hall of Fame status along with Burdges Payne from Greenville, S.C., who was a member of the Brenau team from 1981-84. The four-time NAIA All-American was the 1984 national champion in the 1,650-meter freestyle and the national runner-up in the 500-meter freestyle. The standout swimmer still holds the Brenau record in both the 1,000-meter and the 1,650-meter freestyle.
The NAIA national championship meet continues Friday, March 7. The NAIA planned to broadcast all four days of the meet free of charge through NeuLion, the NAIA’s official video-streaming company. For more information, visit https://www.nmnathletics.com//subs/Landing.dbml?&&DB_OEM_ID=27900&db_oem_id=27900