Bears Bolster Lead Heading Into Final Day at MVC Championships
Roni Balzam
Roni Balzam

Feb. 17, 2012


CARBONDALE, Ill. -- The winning tradition continues at the 2012 State Farm Missouri Valley Conference Swimming & Diving Championships for the Bears as they bolstered their lead on the second day of competition. Missouri State increased its lead to 176 points and is sitting well heading into the final day.

With a victory on Saturday, the Bears will have won five consecutive championships and nine of the past 10 titles.

Making it 3-for-3 in the relays, the relay team of Megan Holthoff, Renata Sander, Roni Balzam and Ali Stauffer recorded a time of 1:43.41 and defeated host Southern Illinois by a margin of .35 seconds. It is the ninth year in-a-row that a MSU relay has won the event.

Missouri State scored a whopping 70 points in the 400 IM as all five swimmers in the event scored in the championship final. Senior captain Brianna Willoughby led the way with a second-place finish. Her time of 4:26.34 was just .14 seconds off of her MSU varsity record set at last year's conference meet. Following Willoughby were Suzanne Van Rensburg in fourth, Kaylee Steffen and Marta Nogueroles in fifth and sixth, and rounding out the top-eight was senior Katie Lindeman (8th).

Freshman Roni Balzam captured the Bears' first individual gold medal of the weekend with first place in the 100 fly. Her time of 56.00 moves her into second all-time in Missouri State history behind volunteer assistant coach Chelsea Dirks-Ham. Ali Stauffer moved up two spots to sixth with a lifetime best of 57.53.

The Bears' depth showed in the 200 free as all four swimmers entered in the event were represented in the championship final. Senior captain Dimitra Drakopoulou was MSU's top finisher in fifth place, followed by Dawn Richerson, Hannah Molden and Laura Peterson. All four athletes dropped time from their prelims marks.

Sophomore Renata Sander kept the momentum swinging in Missouri State's favor as she won the 100 breast, pulling away in the second 50. While rewriting her own MSU record with a time of 1:02.35, she was just .01 seconds shy of the MVC and pool record. Her new mark in the event was the Bears' first NCAA "B" cut of the season.

Missouri State once again showed its strength at the top of the podium as sophomore Anna Ahlin defended her title in the 100 back (55.24) and Megan Holthoff completed the 1-2 finish for the Bears. Not far behind was Janke Englebrecht in fourth, giving MSU three of the top four finishers.

In the final relay of the evening, the Bears were upended in the 800 free relay by Illinois State. Despite being out-touched by .19 seconds, the Bears shaved off six seconds from their previous best and the quartet of Ahlin, Molden, Richerson and Drakopoulou set a new MSU record in the process.

In the consolation finals of the 3-meter diving competition, the duo of Liz Chollet and Lindsey Conway grabbed 10th and 11th place, respectively.

The last day of competition will begin at 10 a.m. and the finals session will start two hours earlier at 4 p.m.

Team Standings After Day Two
Missouri State - 635
Illinois State - 459
Southern Illinois - 450
Evansville - 304
Northern Iowa - 203



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