View From The Pool Deck
March 5, 2009
LAS VEGAS - **Once again this year, UNLVRebels.com will have daily reports from the MWC Championships from the Pool Deck, thanks to assistant coach Ben Loorz. Check back often during the week for his updates**
DAY FOUR REPORT
It’s been a few days now, but the buzz is only just wearing off. The MWC meet concluded with a super-high, the men winning their 5th in a row, and UNLV garnering honors for both the men’s and women’s Swimmer of the Meet (Kier Maitland and Zsu Jakabos, respectively), and the Men’s Coach of the Year (Jim Reitz, of course). We had another emotional high yesterday (Wednesday) when we found out that senior Amanda Weinbrecht will be joining her teammate Zsuzsanna Jakabos at the women’s NCAA Championships in two weeks. Her .03-second improvement from finals to prelims in the 100-yd. Fly was enough to do the trick, as she squeaked in 38th in the event. She and Zsu will travel to Texas A&M on March 17th to compete at the fastest meet in the land.
For the men, we currently have 6 NCAA qualifiers, though the jury is still out. The men’s 200-yd. Freestyle Relay will of course be attending the meet (they are currently ranked 7th), as will breaststroker Akos Molnar. Kier Maitland killed it in the mile on Saturday (more about that in a moment) and will also be on the roster. Freshman Andrew Morrell and sophomore John Mendoza will travel to Long Beach, CA, this Sunday for the Pac-10 “Last Chance” meet, where they will attempt to lower their times enough to receive an invitation. Andrew needs about a half-second in his 100 Breast, and John needs about 5 seconds in the 1650 – we wish them the best of success.
But let’s relive Saturday for a moment, because UNLV was a juggernaut on the final day of MWC competition. The men lengthened their lead to end up almost 300 points ahead of second-place rival Air Force. One might think that it would be all too easy for the energy to slip when in such a secure position, but if anything the contrary was true. Like a rock concert that reaches its most fevered pitch during the encore, there was no stopping UNLV. The women made a valiant run at leader BYU, falling short by about 50 points in the end. Tears flowed, but resolve also hardened . . . next year, next year.
The swimming events opened with the women’s 1650-yd. Freestyle, and senior Bailey Kuestermeyer was good for the bronze medal in her last swimming race as a Rebel. Her time of 16:45.98 was a lifetime best, and she emerged from the pool ecstatic about achieving a MWC meet of 100% best times. Look for Kuestermeyer in running shoes from now on, as she moves into her second sport as a member of UNLV’s track team.
The men did the mile in typical awe-inspiring style, going 1-2-4 in the event. The story was all about Kier Maitland, though, as he moved to the front early and stayed there. After the 400 he locked in to 27.4’s. A third of the way through (at the 550-yd. mark), his split was almost 5 full seconds ahead of the same split from his own record-breaking performance at the Texas Invite a year earlier. The race only continued to get better. With the whole team urging him on the last 500 yards, Kier swam in to a 14:53.08. This smashed the previous conference record by over 10 seconds, and the time is currently top-15 in the country. It was a great moment when Air Force Head Coach K.C. Converse – the first man ever under the magic 15:00.00 mark in the mile – stopped by to congratulate Kier on his performance. Let’s not overlook Kier’s teammates, however, as John Mendoza swam an incredibly fast 15:05.77 for the silver medal. John looks to be just outside the cuts for the NCAA Championships, and he will try to lower his mark again this weekend. Freshman Tyler Bush concluded one helluva first conference meet by touching the wall 4th in a 15:21.84.
The 200-yd. Backstroke followed, and UNLV opened with a meet-high four women in the “A” final. Top seed was Amanda Weinbrecht, who had dismantled the conference record in the morning by swimming to a 1:56.39. At night, Weinbrecht was out fast, but slipped down to 6th (1:58.91), right between teammates Lisa Gillespie (5th, with a 1:58.50) and Anja Crawford (7th, with a 2:00.33). The race looked to be all Breann Fuller, the CSU freshman who had earlier nabbed the 100 Back from Amanda. But with 30 yards to go, junior Ana Dangalakova made her move from lane 8. The UNLV cheers rose to a roar as Ana gained a head of steam and passed the flailing Fuller. With a true “outside smoke”, Ana touched the wall in a new conference record of 1:55.94 and the gold medal.
On the men’s side, freshman Michael Lowenstein redeemed a relatively soft morning swim (which placed him in the “B” final) by obliterating his time and his competition. Leading from wire to wire, Mike posted a 1:48.92 to claim 9th. In the top heat, senior Jeff Ellingsen swam his final race, his swan song to backstroke. A gifted leader and invaluable teammate, Jeff said goodbye with a 5th place. Training partner Nick Blank, the top seed from the morning, swam a beautifully-split race, going 26.6, 27.1, 26.8 in the last three 50’s. Pushed early by Air Force’s Kai Yamashiro, Blank walked away in the last 50. He touched the wall in a 1:45.02, his first-ever conference title and a new conference record.
The women’s 100-yd. Freestyle was keynoted by Harpak, whose time of 50.00 was good enough for fourth. Frustrated by not breaking that magic 50-second barrier, Harpak now has a pre-set mark for next year. In an exciting finish, sophomore Megan Clark took the “B” final with a 50.75, her lifetime best. Freshman Frida Szel was 15th with a 51.67.
UNLV men once again showed their sprinting prowess by putting five swimmers in the top final. Leading the pack were sophomores Calan Eldridge and Kyle Virva. Their times of 44.10 and 44.15, respectively, were good enough for the silver and bronze. BYU sprinter Gregor Greiner took down Richard Hortness’ 2008 record by going a 43.34 for the win, and you can look forward to an onslaught of UNLV men aiming to take this record back next year. Freshman Steven Nelms was 5th with a 44.44, followed very closely by Thomas Andolfsson at a 44.47 and Charlie Tapp with a 44.49. Do you think these guys train together? Nick Arneson concluded his meet by going 45.65, good for 14th.
The 200-yd. Breaststroke saw some major excitement for the men. But first the women, with first-year Rebels Marley Prothero and Alex Bejinariu in the “B” final. Alex was 16th with a 2:25.29, but Marley went out hard (1:06.1) to command the race. She touched first in a 2:19.75. Kelsey Clarke was 8th in the “A” final, swimming a 2:20.46 (slightly slower than her morning swim). On the men’s side, sophomore Akos Molnar pulled off a heroic 1:55.70. This gold medal swim is a full second faster than U.S. Olympian Scott Usher’s former conference record. And Akos did it with his goggles full of water. On being questioned as to how he timed his walls so well, Akos responded that had simply “just counted strokes.” This performance (along with his 100 breast) earned Akos a berth at the NCAA Championships. Not to be denied, freshman Andrew Morrell pulled off a glory swim of his own, dropping 4.5 seconds from the morning to take 2nd in a 1:57.32. If he makes the NCAA meet in the 100 Breast this weekend, Morrell will be able to swim the 200-yd. race again at the big show.
The final individual event of the meet was the 200-yd. Butterfly, and the Rebels made a good showing in an event that has been relatively weak in years past. Zsuzsanna Jakabos showed up late to the finals session, relegated to her hotel room by a severe bout of food poisoning. Swimming easily in the morning, Zsu coasted into finals. She felt well enough at night to put one out there, closing on leader Whitney Lopus in the final 50. Her time of 1:56.33 wasn’t quite good enough for the win (though it easily earned the silver), but it destroyed the old UNLV record by 6 seconds, and will be a dangerous race for a healthy Zsu at the NCAA Championships. Freshman Katie Matulic swam a lifetime best 2:03.95 to make her first-ever “A” final at the MWC meet, and also a spot on the UNLV top-10 list.
David Seiler, Daniel Egly, and Peter Lorring were the male 200-yd. Butterflyers. The fastest first split (22.91) was Seiler; the fastest last split (27.80) was Egly. They went 1-2 in the race, but it was Seiler for the win, holding off the hard-charging Egly. His time of 1:44.67 was only three-tenths off All-American UNLV record-holder Andrew Livingston’s mark. Senior Peter Lorring concluded his career with a 1:47.15, nearly identical to his morning swim and good for 6th place. Peter’s leadership and extreme knowledge of the sport of swimming will be missed.
And finally, the relays. The women’s 400-yd. Freestyle Relay consisted of a few surprise members, with sprinters Marva Harpak and Megan Clark being joined by strokers Amanda Weinbrecht and Lisa Gillespie. But the combination worked, and they swam into a silver medal and a UNLV record. Their 3:20.49 was fast enough to stave off Utah, and is an NCAA “B” time.
The men concluded the meet as they began it, with a Conference record going down in smoke. You might think it would get boring, but it never did. The young team (2 sophomores, 2 freshmen) of Kyle Virva, Calan Eldridge, Charlie Tapp, and Steven Nelms combined to go a 2:54.39, two full seconds under the old BYU record and several body-lengths ahead of the remainder of the field. There were still awards to be given out, and celebrations to be had, but the swimming portion of the MWC Championships concluded as it had began, with the echoing chant of “Re-bels! . . . Re-bels! . . . Re-bels! . . .”
DAY THREE REPORT
Another night, and another “A” cut! This time it was in the women’s 400-yd. Individual Medley, the opening event of the night. Junior Ana Dangalakova was the top seed after smashing the conference record in the prelims. Her time of 4:14.00 was four seconds faster than any previous performance. But perhaps “smashing” is not the best choice of words, because then how do I describe what happened in finals? Freshman Zsuzsanna Jakabos, a two-time Olympic semi-finalist in this event, showed the crowd her world-class paces. Splitting a 55.35 in the opening butterfly leg was only the beginning, as Zsu walked away from the field to swim an astonishing 4:06.70. This time is currently top 10 in the NCAA and a full half-second under the “A” cut!
At the moment, Zsu’s swim overshadowed the other battles in the pool, but three Rebel women joined her in the domination of this event. Dangalakova swam another 4:14, a race of pure guts as she went out faster than the morning swim; she was unable to hold off a hard-charging Rachel Grant from BYU (the former conference record holder) in the last 75 yards, but was able to grab the bronze medal. Senior Bailey Kuestermeyer swam her farewell 400 I.M. in a stunning 4th place finish. I say “stunning” not because Bailey lacks talent and drive, but because in the finals she bettered her lifetime-best morning swim by a full 5 seconds (4:18.26, a time that is also under the old conference record). These girls were joined by promising freshman Marley Prothero, who swam a lifetime best twice in one day, claiming 7th place in a 4:23.28. This I.M. performance did a lot to push the UNLV women into their current points standing, but keep reading to find out more about this.
The men’s 400 I.M. was, if a little less quick in terms of records, just as exciting. The tightly bunched “A” final (only 2 seconds separated the top seed from the eighth seed) was a dogfight from beginning to end. Sophomore John Mendoza charged out ahead from lane 8, leading at the conclusion of the backstroke leg. Unfortunately, the scoreboard went down at that point, so it was all eyes focused solely on the water. John continued to lead into the breaststroke, but it was then that freshman Tyler Bush led a charge from the middle of the pool. Four swimmers ate away at John’s lead, but it was fellow teammate Bush who was able to slingshot that momentum into the final 100. We have no idea what his official split was, but he was moving. His turnover only increased as he became the first male freshman to grab a gold medal at these championships. His winning time of 3:56.50 was two seconds ahead of Mendoza, who took 5th with a 3:58.46.
In the 100-yd. Butterfly, senior Amanda Weinbrecht turned in two huge drops today. Both her swims were a phenomenal 53.1, over a second faster than the old UNLV record. Her NCAA “B” cut time was good for a silver medal in the finals. Freshman Katie Matulic made her second consolation final of the meet, swimming a great PB of 56.17 and moving into 10th place. Incidentally, Katie was only one hundredth behind the winner of the “B” final, and if I were the other girl I would not want to swim next to Katie in the 200-yd. butterfly tomorrow.
The men’s 100 Fly was led by sophomore David Seiler. Long in the hunt to take the record of UNLV alumni and Olympian Joe Bartoch, Seiler finally made good on his threats today. His time of 46.88 is a new conference record, as he became the first and only man under the :47 mark in MWC history. He was backed by senior Peter Lorring who finished second in 47.66, a stellar best time and a great way to say goodbye to his signature event. Steven Nelms filled out the Rebel domination in this event by nabbing fourth in a 47.88. 200 Butterfly specialist Daniel Egly was 10th with a lifetime best of 49.35, a lot of speed for a guy who likes to go double the distance.
Next up was the 200-yd. Freestyle, and sophomore Marva Harpak had something to prove . . . or at least she swam like she did. Down by a stroke going into the last 50, she outsplit BYU’s Natasha Menezes (the morning’s top qualifier and the winner of the 500-yd. freestyle) by a full four tenths, stretching to the finish only two hundredths ahead of her rival. Her gold medal time of 1:47.42 is an NCAA “B” cut. Teammate Lisa Gillespie joined her on the podium after touching 3rd in a 1:48.41, the second individual bronze of her career. Freshman Frida Szel won the consolation final in a 1:50.80.
For the men, the “B” final kicked off in a nailbiter, with Calan Eldridge proving he really belonged in the “A” final. He went out like a shot (21.6 to the feet) and hung on for dear life in the last 50, but his 1:37.69 was good for the win and was the 4th-fastest time overall. Distance man Kier Maitland dropped down to a “sprint” event, also going a 1:37 and earning 4th place. He looked to be out of it at the 100 mark, but closed on four people in the last 50 for a great come-from-behind. But the story of the 200 Free was written by sophomore Kyle Virva. The desire in his face could be seen from across the natatorium, and he swam it like he meant it. Leading from wire to wire (out in a beautifully long-stroked 46.48), Kyle earned the gold medal and was just a hair off 2008 superstar Richard Hortness’ UNLV record. This was his first-ever individual medal.
Breaststroke. 100 yards. Rebel men dominate. Again. Freshman Andrew Morrell, undefeated this year in MWC competition, was joined by recent squad addition Akos Molnar. Andrew posted the best prelim time with a stellar 53.79, only the second man under :54 in school history. But in the finals, it was Akos who set the pace. Accelerating through the second 25, he pulled slightly ahead of Morrell and a hard-charging Justin Day from Air Force Academy. Accustomed to swimming in a meters pool, Akos made the team cringe every time he short-stroked into the wall, but his great kick and lightning hips kept him moving toward a new conference record and a gold medal. His time of 53.28 is a solid NCAA “B” cut, as is Morrell’s 2nd-place 53.79. For the women, sophomore Kelsey Clarke skipped over the 1:04 mark entirely by dropping from a 1:05 to a 1:03.90, which was good enough to make the big final. She was 7th at night with a nearly identical time. Freshman Elise Warren dropped a second in the morning to make the consols, and then another second at night, ending up at a 1:04.64 in 14th. These were her first championship points as a Rebel.
And finally, the 100-yd backstroke. In this final individual event of the evening, the women were spearheaded by longtime backstroke standout Amanda Weinbrecht. Her time of 53.63 from the morning destroyed the team record and put Amanda in possession of the MWC record and an NCAA “B” cut. Alas, the conference mark was too short-lived, as Colorado State’s star freshman Breann Fuller won the event at night and stole the record back. Nevertheless, Amanda’s silver medal finish at night was another :53 and a stellar swim, marking her as a strong contender in the 200-yd. backstroke tomorrow. Amanda’s training partner Anja Crawford showed that she might have what it takes to carry Amanda’s flag after she graduates. Anja won the consolation final with a great diving finish, stretching her long arms in for a lifetime best 56.37.
Men’s 100 Back: 48.68, 48.78, 48.83, 48.94, 49.37. These are all UNLV times. And they are all from the “A” final. In fact, they were good for 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 6th. Has the word domination entered this article? The times belong, respectively, to Jeff Ellingsen, Nick Blank, David Seiler, Michael Lowenstein (the only freshman of the crowd, earning his first-ever MWC points), and Peter Lorring. This truly amazing depth helped cement UNLV’s lead on this second full day of competition, putting the men into a virtually untouchable position.
The relays capitulated the session, and the 400-yd. Medley was the event of the evening. For the women, the race was intensely exciting as the lead changed hands from stroke to stroke. The team of Amanda Weinbrecht, Kelsey Clarke, Zsu Jakabos, and Marva Harpak combined for a new UNLV record of 3:41.50. This time was good for the bronze medal. The men’s relay was exciting for a different reason. Led off by senior Jeff Ellingsen in the final 100-yd. Backstroke of his career, we were 2 full seconds ahead of the next team at the finish. Jeff and his teammates Akos Molnar, David Seiler, and Charlie Tapp now own a conference record as they broke last year’s mark by going a 3:12.91.
This day was exciting, to say the least, as evidenced by the severe pain and tightness in my throat every time I open my mouth to speak. But we wouldn’t have it any other way. Here’s the really exciting part: the men now lead second-place Air Force Academy by over 170 points. This lead is one of the largest point spreads in history going into Day 3, and the men are extremely pumped to put this one into the history books tomorrow. For the women, our fourth place from yesterday has shifted . . . a lot. UNLV women are now, inspiringly, sitting just 29.5 points behind the current leader, the BYU Cougars. Don’t turn around Kitty, you might not like what’s right behind you . . .
DAY TWO REPORT
You all know I like to move through the meet chronologically. But when something special, something magical, occurs, it takes the top podium in the mind. The men’s 200-yd. Freestyle Relay tonight was something to behold.
Let’s just get it out there, because you also all know how fast the NCAA “A” cuts are this year. Only the upper echelons of college swimmers crack that magic mark, and tonight, we did it. “A” cut. Say it again . . . it sounds good, right? No hanging around for two weeks, “maybe we made it, maybe we didn’t.” They can’t take this one away.
The relay became electric right away when freshman Steven Nelms put a body length on the field in the first 25 yards. We knew something special was in the making when he posted a lead-off time of 19.64, only 3-hundredths off the MWC record in the 50-yd. freestyle and the second-fastest time in school history. But this was no one-man show. Sophomore Calan Eldridge took over with his long reach, clocking a 19.54. The third leg was the fastest of the evening, with freshman Charlie Tapp on fire. Maybe he had something to prove after a morning swim that was excellent, but not up to his personal expectations. The split was 19.12. Anchor man Thomas Andolfsson didn’t disappoint, grabbing the wall in a 19.31.
Total time: 1:17.61. A new record, and 3+ seconds ahead of the next team. And the crowd went wild . . .
Since I’m going out of order, we may as well take a look at the women’s 200-yd. I.M. This coronary-inducing race kept everyone on their feet as Zsu Jakabos (lane 4), Ana Dangalakova (lane 5), and Lisa Gillespie (lane 6) conducted a battle royale for the title. A fairly even fly leg transitioned into Dangalakova owning the backstroke leg. Not to be denied, Gillespie outsplit them all on the breast leg. But it was Jakabos, owner of a 1:58 l 200 freestyle, who was the best closer. Her time of 1:58.47 destroyed the old conference record of 2:01.11. In fact, all three athletes destroyed it: Dangalakova was 1:59.59, Gillespie 1:59.93. Utah’s standout freshman Hanah Caron snuck into the mix from lane 1, nabbing the silver medal in a 1:59.18. Darkening the amazing performances was a DQ for Lisa Gillespie, a casualty of the recent rule change in breaststroke that states that in the underwater pulldown, the hands must separate prior to any leg or torso movement. Despite the tragedy of this call on a very gray matter, Gillespie responded in true Rebel fashion by giving the team a pep talk about putting the past away and looking toward tomorrow.
Other I.M.-ers of note were freshman Katie Matulic, swimming in her first MWC final (15th, 2:06.80), and the men Nick Blank and Jeff Ellingsen. Senior Ellingsen broke his long-standing tradition of swimming faster in the morning than at night, moving up to a 7th-place finish from lane 8. His 1:50.81 was a lifetime best. Blank, a sophomore swimming in his first MWC meet, also moved up from the outside. Swimming next to Ellingsen in lane 7, Blank was literally dead last after the fly leg. He showed his prowess, however, in being the best at the unusual combo of back and breast (not unlike recent UNLV grad Devin Phillips, last year’s champion). Moving up with the leaders, Blank earned a bronze medal in the first MWC final of his UNLV career. His 1:48.53 is the third-fastest performance in school history.
Kier Maitland and John Mendoza didn’t want all the glory to go to the sprinters, of course, so they decided to mix things up in the 500-yd. freestyle. Mendoza swam a characteristic even-split race, grinding away on the leaders and picking them off one by one. His 4:23.47 was good for the silver medal and is an NCAA “B” cut. But the one man he couldn’t reach tonight was fellow sophomore Maitland. At the halfway mark, he began marching his splits down a tenth at a time, dropping the legs into the mix for a great sprint at the finish. His 4:20.75 upsets an 8-year-old team record and is also a new conference record. The gold went to Maitland this time, and we’ll see this match-up again on Saturday in the 1650-yd. freestyle.
Another 500 free swimmer this evening was birthday-boy Tyler Bush. The freshman celebrated his 18th birthday by earning a 7th place in his first-ever MWC event. His time of 4:27.21 from the morning was a lifetime best. For the women, senior Bailey Kuestermeyer swam the last 500 of her career. She also finished 7th with a lifetime best 4:53.75, a great performance in what was by far the fastest 500-yd. field in MWC history.
The men were predictably, though no less amazingly, dominant in the 50 free. The winner was Thomas Andolfsson. After missing the MWC record in the morning by one hundredth (19.63), Andolfsson tried it again only to swim an almost identical 19.64. Nevertheless, he took home the gold and a new UNLV record. He was followed by Steven Nelms with a 19.91 who grabbed silver. BYU took the third position, and then UNLV took the next three. That’s right, 5 of the top 6 sprinters (and 6 of the top 7 if you count Andrew Morrell’s winning time of 20.36 from the “B” final) wore UNLV. Fourth was Charlie Tapp, going under 20 seconds for the first time with a 19.96. Sophomores Calan Eldridge and Kyle Virva tied for 5th (which gave the coaching staff a moment of pause when deciding the relay line-up), both going 20.03. Honorable mention to freshman Nick Arneson, whose late-season explosion put him on the conference team. His time of 20.81 was good for 14th.
As we head into Friday’s competition, the men are in first place, followed by Air Force. The women are fourth, just a tad behind Utah. Wyoming’s extremely strong showing in the diving events has catapulted them into a virtual tie with leader BYU. Tomorrow is a strong day for the Rebels with the 400 I.M., 200 Freestyle, and 100’s of the strokes. Several swimmers have yet to dive into their first individual event, and hopefully this surge will continue to push UNLV forward.
DAY ONE REPORT
It’s only the first night, and the parents and coaches have already lost their voices. That’s how exciting this first session of competition was. Tonight was a snapshot into excellence. A clinic in what it means to pour your heart and soul into a year of training, to not be sure of what results you might get out of all that hard work, and then to stand up and execute.
It began with the women’s 200-yd. Medley Relay, an event in which the Rebels were seeded 5th, but ended up 2nd. From Lane 2, little was expected of the Rebel team. With open water on their right and BYU on their left, no one had a chance to see us coming. Amanda Weinbrecht and Kelsey Clarke led off, tied for 2nd at the 100. Freshman Zsuzsanna Jakabos, our mid-semester addition to the roster, dove into a great fly leg. With 5 relays swimming pretty much dead even, sophomore Megan Clark wrapped it up. Cementing her reputation as a bloodthirsty relay swimmer, she outsplit every other relay except for the winning BYU squad. Her 22.15 is the fastest in school history, and she touched the wall second with a very solid 1:41.58.
Next up was the men’s 200-yd. Medley Relay. The sprint team of David Seiler, Andrew Morrell, Peter Lorring, and Thomas Andolfsson took down one of the most outstanding, star-studded conference records on the books (the 2005 UNLV team). Clocking a lightning-fast 1:26.86 put our men lengths ahead of the other teams, and Thomas “Ginger” Andolfsson’s split of 18.92 is the first time a Rebel has cracked the 19-second mark. This relay time is currently top-15 in the country.
And from there, the ball kept rolling. To put it bluntly, our women’s 800-yd. Freestyle Relay DESTROYED every team, every time, every split. Let me paint a picture. Back in 2002, UNLV standout Lorena Diaconescu led the Rebel 800 Free Relay to a 7:18. It was a conference record (anchored by a 1:46 split) that stood until this past December when the formidable Utah squad let go with a jaw-dropping 7:13. Tonight, we took Utah to the wall in the first 400, put them under the table in the third leg, and walked away in the fourth. BYU wasn’t even close. Junior Marva Harpak led off with a blistering 1:46.94, just a stroke behind the current conference record holder and a few tenths off the UNLV team record. Freshman Frida Szel dove in to split a lifetime best 1:48.84. Zsu Jakabos took over for her second night of the swim, catching and passing the race leader en route to a 1:47.60, and sophomore Lisa Gillespie put it away with a beautiful 1:46.80. TOTAL TIME: 7:10.18, currently top-15 in the country and way, way faster than any previous MWC performance.
The men followed, in classic Rebel-men style, with a resounding victory of their own in the 800-yd. Freestyle Relay. Besting last year’s NCAA-qualifying mark of 6:29.39, the team of Kyle Virva, Calan Eldridge, Tyler Bush, Kier Maitland took first in a new conference record of 6:28.40. Take note all you rival teams: the oldest member of this relay is a sophomore. Lead-off man Virva went a lifetime best in the 100 (to the feet!), 45.74, on his way to a 1:36.52. Eldridge took it out hard (21.18), splitting a 1:36.63. The men owned the race from then on, with freshman Tyler Bush stepping up at a 1:37.79, and distance specialist Kier Maitland showing his sprint paces with a 1:37.46.
Not incidentally, junior diver Vinnie English drew first blood on the boards, earning points for a 13th-place finish on the 3-meter springboard.
3 1st-place finishes, 1 2nd-place finish, 3 Conference records, and 4 NCAA B cuts. It’s a good start. See you tomorrow.