Swimming & Diving Bears Jump Out to First-Day Lead at MVC Championships
Feb. 13, 2014
CARBONDALE, Ill. - The Missouri State women's swimming & diving team won four of the six championship finals contested to open the 2014 Missouri Valley Conference Swimming & Diving Championships at the Shea Natatorium Thursday.
The Bears, looking for their seventh consecutive and 11th overall MVC crown, got off to a strong start and lead second-place Southern Illinois by 95.5 points with 299.5 total. Illinois State (192.5), Evansville (139), Northern Iowa (102) and Arkansas-Little Rock (63) round out the standings after the first day of competition.
The Bears received victories from sophomore Dora Kiss in 500 free (4:51.52), senior Renata Sander in the 200-yard individual medley (2:03.18) and the 400-yard-medley relay as Anna Ahlin, Sander, Roni Balzam and Kate Gatelybroke their own MVC record from last season in the event with a time of 3:42.83.
Gately, who won the 50 free at the conference meet last year, tied for the championship this year with Illinois State's Marissa Yontz at 23.17.
"I feel like our finals session went well tonight," said MSU head coach Dave Collins. "As a group we came out a bit flat in the morning prelims and lacked the level of intensity need to maximize point-scoring opportunities.
"During the break [between prelims and finals], we talked about what we needed to change and it is a real credit to ladies for making that happen," he said. "We are in great position as a team and very motivated to race tomorrow."
Kiss qualified second in the prelims of 500 free in 4:56.54 and swam a strong race in the final to repeat as conference champion.
"Dora is an extremely smart racer," Collins said. "She knew her best strategy would be to take the race out fast and take her competitors out of their comfort zone. It worked perfectly, and she controlled the pace the entire way."
Sander tied her own MVC record in the 200 IM from last year to take that race. She led a group of five Bears that qualified for the A-final to score a total of 77 points for MSU. Freshmen Briana Horozewski (2:04.84) and Lauren Pavel (2:04.86) swam third and fourth, respectively. Sophomores Emily Chesser (2:05.06) and Ibby Simcox(2:07.19) were fifth and seventh overall.
"One of the team goals each year coming into this meet is to win with great depth," said Collins. "I feel our performance in the IM showed that. With five swimmers in the A-final, we scored big points."
Gately turned in a career-best 50 free to split first-place points. She lowed her top time in the race from 23.39 at 2013 MVC championships.
"Reappearing in the 50 free from Kate is a very big deal," said Collins. "The 50 is such a precise event that all components have to be perfect. The best swimmer in the field does not always win. Kate is so talented, and has a magical ability to get her hand on the wall, especially in big meets."
In 1-meter diving, senior Lindsey Conway led the Bears in fifth place overall. She scored 278.90 points followed by freshmen Nina Privitera (244.10) and Alexis Skiniotes(241.85) in ninth and 10th, respectively, to earn 30 points in the team standings.
"Our divers moved way up from their entry placing coming into the meet," Collins said. "Our freshmen performed well, and to get to watch Lindsey dive so well in the championship final as a senior was special."
The Bears closed the day with a record-breaking 400-medley relay. Ahlin swam an MSU- and pool-record leadoff 100-backstroke split in 54.41 to set the tone as Missouri State cruised to winning the race at championships for the sixth-straight year.
"We take a lot of pride in the winning tradition we have built in the medley relays," said Collins. "For this group to set a pool and conference record was exciting to watch. For Anna to set a record in the leadoff backstroke leg was special to watch. That is a record she has been after for a while."
The meet continues Friday with prelims at 11 a.m., and finals at 6 p.m.