When Christine Tixier graduates from Biola University next month, she will leave the La Mirada, Calif., school as one of the most decorated swimmers in NAIA history. The former Hanford High School standout won three national titles at last month’s NAIA championships to bring her career total to eight.
“It’s kind of unreal,” she said. “It doesn’t really feel like it was that big of a deal. When I really realize it was a big deal, it’s kind of weird. It was just swimming. It was just my team. It was racing hard and doing well.”
This past season, Christine’s younger sister Lisa joined the Biola team, and together they made some headlines at the NAIA meet in Oklahoma City.
In the 200-yard individual medley, the Tixiers and University of the Cumberlands senior Charlotte Parent all swam under the NAIA record of 2 minutes, 4.01 seconds. The record was nearly as old as 22-year-old Christine, who defended her title by winning the final in 2:02.75, followed by Lisa in 2:03.08 and Parent in 2:03.10.
“Every time you swim, you always feel like you’re going the fastest you’ve ever gone,” Lisa said. “That time, I was feeling like I gave it all I got. I didn’t know I was so close to Charlotte and Christine. People said: ‘The record has been here forever. You guys have to get rid of it.’ We totally smashed it. It was totally cool touching the wall and seeing I was second to Christine, and I dropped a bunch of time.”
It was the first of three meet records Christine Tixier set during her final NAIA championships. She swam a 54.25 in the preliminaries of the 100 butterfly before winning her fourth consecutive title in the event. On the last day, she repeated as the champion in the 200 fly with a record time of 2:00.89.
After her performance, Tixier received her second NAIA Women’s Swimmer of the Year honor. She finished her career with 12 All-America honors and 11 school records (individual and relay combined), but maintaining her level of dominance for four years wasn’t as easy as it looked.
“In the 100 fly, it has been close,” Tixier said. “It has been hard — not hard in that I get stressed out about it — but there has been more competition in the last few years. It was more like, ‘I don’t know if I’m going to win it, but I’m going to swim hard.’ ”
It’s a philosophy she and her sister share, and both have been successful.
In addition to her runner-up finish in the 200 IM, Lisa Tixier took third in the 400 IM and 100 freestyle at the NAIA championships. The Tixiers also powered a trio of relays to top-three finishes.
Sizing up nationals, Lisa said, “I feel like it’s definitely not as big as junior nationals. As far as state, it was about the same size, if not a little smaller even. I felt like I was able to recognize and know more people.”
Lisa and her sister got to catch up at NAIAs with former Hanford teammate Mylie Oberg, who competes for Wayland Baptist University in Plainview, Texas. Oberg and Lisa Tixier were freshman swimmers at Hanford when Christine was a senior. Another Tixier sister, Stephanie, was a sophomore on the team.
“When I was a freshman, because we lived in Benton City, we had to transfer to Hanford to swim,” Lisa said. “I had to swim junior varsity freshman year, so I always felt like I was at a different level than Christine and Stephanie.”
But in college, Lisa and Christine say they have grown closer as sisters and teammates.
“I definitely feel like we’re a big family of 30 people,” Lisa said of her Biola team. “When I first came here, I didn’t really know anybody, but they knew I was a swimmer and Christine’s little sister, so they brought me into the family right at the beginning.”
Christine said watching Lisa in the pool this past season was special.
“Training with her, right alongside her, has been really cool because I’ve never really done that before,” Christine said. “Having her to push me in practice, I feel I’m so tired, and she’s out there busting herself. She inspires me in practice because she has a lot of energy and hard work she puts into it.”
The Tixiers also experienced a type of school pride they hadn’t encountered before, as they were homeschooled before coming to Biola.
“I’m very, very excited to graduate, to be moving on,” said Christine, a biology student who will embark on a research internship in June in Indonesia. “But it’s kind of sad. It’s been a community and family here. It’s been a great time.”