View From The Pool Deck
Feb. 28, 2010
OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. -
**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 (Posted on Sunday)
The final night of competition was full of energy and excitement for the Rebels: the men won their 6th-straight MWC Championship title, and the women held off the hungry Utah and CSU squads to maintain their grip on fourth place. For this final report, I'm going to deviate a bit from the blow-by-blow . . . our sports information team-member, Mark Wasik, has been posting great articles every night and last night was no exception. Check it out on the Web site if you'd like to see all the details of the times and placings: http://unlvrebels.cstv.com/sports/m-swim/recaps/022810aaa.html. Also, full results for the final night can be found here: http://www.themwc.com/sports/c-swim/stats/2009-2010/mwc-10-results-30to42.html
I'd like to highlight a few of the great moments from Saturday evening, beginning with the Senior Recognition award. Many of you know that our senior team captain Marva Harpak was in a car accident last week. She was struck by a speeding vehicle while riding a bike near campus. She spent the next several days in and out of the hospital and doctors' offices and the excellent training room here at UNLV, nursing terrible bruises and swollen knees and ankles. The team was thankful that Marva was not hurt in any lasting way.
But if you know Marva, then you understand the deep drive to succeed that fuels her. Her quest to qualify for the NCAA Championships was aimed toward going best times at the 2010 MWC Championship, and after clocking the third-fastest 200-yd. Freestyle time in conference history during the 2009 season (1:46.94), few doubted that Marva had what it took. Unfortunately, her injuries were of a painful enough nature that even Marva - one the toughest people I've ever met - was unable to reach peak performance levels this weekend. Despite her bitter disappointment, she raced her heart out the whole weekend.
On Saturday evening, Marva was honored by the other coaches in the conference with the MWC Senior Recognition Award (she shared the title with BYU's Natasha Menezes). This was no pity vote, however. She was honored for how she has raised the level of competition in the conference throughout her career, for how she has led the Rebel women, for how she excelled at the World University Games this past summer, and for how she has excelled in the classroom (a 3.5 gpa as a biotechnology major). And she was very deservedly honored for never retreating or giving up.
The other major award bestowed on the Rebels on Saturday night - other than the title of Men's Conference Champions of course - was the men's Swimmer of the Year award, which once again went to Kier Maitland. This is the second year in a row that Kier has earned the award, and for good reason. On Thursday night he became the first-ever MWC swimmer under the monumental 4:20.00 mark in the 500-yd. Freestyle. His time put him top-15 in the country in this event. Last night, he swam one of the smoothest and most controlled sub-15:00 miles that the coaching staff had ever seen. Kier negative split the swim to go 14:58.35, which puts him currently eighth in the NCAA.
This was not Kier's final word, however. His season has been a very deliberate arc toward the NCAA Championships at the end of March. Coach Reitz has taken Kier to a new level. Of course he has marked himself as the most superior distance freestyler in the history of the conference, but as befitting his talent and drive, he is not content to stop there. With the NCAA Championships around the corner, and Pan-Pacific Championships this summer, this past weekend is only the beginning of Kier's 2010 story.
Another Rebel woman who should be mentioned is senior Erin King. She qualified for the conference team this year for the very first time. It is her last year as a Rebel swimmer, and her first conference championship. Her extraordinary mission to improve herself enough to make the final squad this year is an inspiring story for anyone who misses the mark the first time around. Three years she tried to make the squad, but with no success. In the past 18 months, she has been so diligent in her quest that she had dropped over four full seconds in her 200-yd. Breaststroke , and over ten seconds in her 400-yd. I.M. So she was invited to go to conference.
But on Friday, she didn't swim fast enough to make finals in her best event, the 400 I.M. She improved her lifetime-best time by two seconds in the race, but ended up one tenth of one second out of a scoring position (she was 17th after prelims, and only the top 16 swim for points at night). This heartbreak threatened to dampen the rest of her meet, but she awoke Saturday morning with a gleam in her eye that meant business. She dove in Saturday morning - the final race, on the final day, of the final meet of her swimming career - and dropped two more seconds in her 200-yd. Breaststroke. And qualified 15th.
But was this enough for Erin? Indeed not. She rehearsed her strategy, and came back that night to swim another full second faster, splitting the fastest last 50-yds. of the entire B-Final field. She moved up from 15th to 10th, scoring the first points of her UNLV career. And if that wasn't enough, her time was good enough to be #12 on UNLV's All-Time list. Erin's story of dedication is one that will be re-told through the years as a model of what an athlete can accomplish if she never gives up.
One more story for tonight, and this one is also about improvement. When senior team captain Daniel Egly first joined the Rebel squad, he earned 11th place at the MWC Conference Championship in the 200-yd. Butterfly. His time was 1:51.67. His sophomore year, Daniel showed huge improvement (dropping to 1:48) and earned 2nd place. The following year, Daniel went 1:45.64 - currently the fourth-fastest time in conference history - but again earned second place behind teammate David Seiler. But Saturday night was, finally, Daniel's night. After four years of hunting down a gold medal, after dropping six seconds in his signature event, Daniel Egly finally earned his first individual MWC Championship title. Also, Daniel is one of only a handful of men (including fellow senior Thomas Andolfsson) who has won a team Conference Championship all four years that he has been at UNLV. It is a testament to his (and Thomas's) improvement and leadership that the UNLV men continue to be the class of the MWC.
Well, that will wrap up the Conference Championship for this year. But stay tuned through March, as several men will certainly be heading to the NCAA Championships at the Ohio State University over March 25th-27th. Kier Maitland, of course, will be one qualifer, and the coaching staff has great hopes for his success in what will be his second appearance at NCAA's. Other individual qualifiers are likely to be Andrew Morrell, whose 200-yd. Breaststroke time from Saturday night (1:55.75) is currently eighth in the country. Freshman Cody Roberts should also receive an invitation based on his 100-yd. Butterfly from Friday night. And the men's 200-yd. Medley Relay is currently fifth in the NCAA, and so should enable relay teammates David Seiler and Steven Nelms to join Morrell and Roberts in Ohio. Let's keep it going Rebels!
The third night of competition here in Oklahoma City ended with the men extending their lead and the women moving up another two places. Currently at 515 points, the men sit 50 points ahead of BYU – a comfortable lead considering that the men have no diving events tomorrow. The women have climbed over both Utah and Colorado State, and are now sole possessors of fourth place.
The evening began with the 400-yd. Individual Medley. Tyler Bush shaved four seconds off of his preliminary swim to earn second place in a 3:57.92. He came home in a blazing 53.1 freestyle split, by far the fastest in the field. John Mendoza was eighth in the final.
For the women, sophomore Marley Prothero took huge drops in the morning to enter finals with the third-place seeding. She defended her position at night, clocking in with a huge lifetime best of 4:20.47. She was all smiles at the finish, as she earned her first podium finish for the Rebels. Teammate Ana Dangalakova finished right behind her for fourth place.
In the men's 100-yd. butterfly there were three up and three down. Senior Daniel Egly joined freshmen Andrew Mooers and Kyle Endres in the B-Final. They were seventh (50.43), fifth (50.21), and fourth (50.18) respectively, displaying great depth and personal improvements for the Rebels.
The A-final was one of the most dramatic races of the evening, and the stage was set when Rebels turned in the top three qualifying times in the morning prelims. Freshman Cody Roberts – the second seed in lane five –showed his customary early speed by going out in 21.44. Top seed Steven Nelms (in lane four) was three tenths of a second behind, while defending conference record holder David Seiler lagged in lane three. But Seiler showed why is he is also defending conference champion in the 200-yd. Fly as he began reeling in the other two. With 25 yards to go, Cody began to tighten up, and it looked to be Nelms with the head of steam. But with five yards to go, Nelms shortened up. Seiler was moving up fast, but it wasn't fast enough. In the end, the freshman carried the day. Cody's unmatched under-water work carried him to a stunning 46.66 victory, a new conference record and the 16th-fastest time in the nation. David and Steven tied for second, as David overtook Steven in a Michael Phelps-like lunge for the finish. They were also NCAA B cuts at 47.16.
The women's 100-yd. Butterfly was similarly carried by freshmen. Carmen Robb and Emma Gustafsson both competed in the A-Final. While they both added a few tenths from their morning swims, they respectively finished fifth and sixth with a 56.11 and a 56.22. The Wicked Women look forward to great things from these two over the next three years.
The men's 200-yd. Freestyle was dominated by defending conference champion Kyle Virva and distance specialist Kier Maitland. Both men showed tremendous discipline in their pacing, splitting the race perfectly. Kyle came home the fastest with a blazing 24.09, which earned him the gold medal. His 1:36.57 was an NCAA B cut. Kier pushed past BYU's John Kendrick for the silver. His incredibly smooth swim was a 1:37.33, also a B cut.
The women surged ahead of Utah in the team points standing by placing five girls in the 200-yd. Freestyle finals. In the B-Final, Marva Harpak, Lara Sreibers, and Frida Szel were third, fifth, and sixth, earning a total of thirteen points. In the A-Final, Lisa Gillespie and Brittany Ozar were sixth and seventh, with Gillespie nabbing the top time for the Rebel women in a 1:49.69.
Sophomore Andrew Morrell held down the men's 100-yd. Breaststroke. His preliminary time of 53.77 was one of the fastest in conference history, and is currently top-20 in the country. Unfortunately he tightened up a bit at night, but was still strong enough to grab the bronze medal. Sophomore Luke Knight scored his first points as a Rebel by swimming a 58.88 (15th place).
Kelsey Clarke was the sole breaststroker for the Rebel women, and she earned seventh place. Her prelim time of 1:03.01 was a personal best and grabbed the number two spot on the Rebel's all-time list.
In the men's 100-yd. Backstroke, Rebels once again displayed great depth. Junior Nick Blank added another Conference Champion title to his belt by swimming a 48.47. He was joined by teammates Michael Lowenstein (fourth, 48.76) and Cody Roberts (third, 48.67). All three men earned NCAA B cuts for their efforts. In the B-Final, Charlie Tapp was first in a 50.19, and freshman Chris Riley scored his first conference points as a Rebel by touching fourth in the heat at 50.70.
On the women's side, Anja Crawford once again surprised the B-Final by dropping huge time from her morning prelim swim. She missed winning the consolation final by one hundredth of a second, but her time of 55.90 was a monumental drop and would have beat three people from the A-Final.
The 400-yd. Medley Relay concluded the evening. The men continue their sweep of the relay events, as they touched four seconds ahead of the next team. David Seiler, Andrew Morrell and Cody Roberts were teamed up this time with freestyle specialist Kyle Virva, and their time of 3:13.12 is a solid B cut and a mere two tenths off the conference record (set last year). The women's team of Anja Crawford, Kelsey Clarke, Carmen Robb, and Lisa Gillespie earned sixth place with a season-best 3:47.43.
Competition concludes tomorrow.
DAY TWO REPORT
This evening's competition opened much the same as the night before – with a new Mountain West Conference record! But this time it wasn't the sprinters, it was distance swimmer Kier Maitland. Currently ranked top-10 in the country for his 1650 time, Kier competed tonight in the middle distance 500-yd. Freestyle. His time of 4:19.82 is the first-ever MWC time under the elusive 4:20 barrier, putting him among elite company.
Not to be overlooked, teammate John Mendoza put on a great show of his own in the same heat. He jumped out to a commanding second-place at the halfway mark, only to watch that gap erode as the field approached the finish. True to form, John displayed tremendous fortitude and hung on down the homestretch, touching for a shared second place with Air Force Academy's Sean O'Keefe. The silver medal time was an NCAA B cut at 4:24.89.
For the women's 500-yd. Freestyle, UNLV had "one up, one down," meaning one girl in the A-Final and one in the B-Final. Sophomore Marley Prothero, a relative newcomer to this event at the conference level, got the job done in the morning prelims with a huge best time, 4:56.32. She snuck into the A-Final in the eighth spot, and was able to move up to seventh at night. Freshman Nakayla Chan also dropped significant time in the morning, and she finished third in the B-Final with a 4:57.61.
The next event of the evening was the 200-yd. Individual Medley, which has been a trouble spot for the UNLV men throughout the dual meet season. Not tonight. Juniors Nick Blank and David Seiler represented the Rebels. Nick improved on his third-place finish from last season by nabbing the silver in a 1:48.54. Dave has never swum this event at the conference championship before, though he may do so from now on after grabbing the bronze medal with a 1:49.05.
For the women, Lisa Gillespie was the top 200 I.M. finisher, earning a fourth place by dropping significant time from her morning swim. Her 2:01.85 is an NCAA B cut. Freshman Brittany Ozar rounded out the A-Final by swimming for eighth. Ana Dangalakova and Anja Crawford were tenth and twelfth, respectively, performing solidly in the B-Final. Crawford in particular surprised the crowd from lane eight, leading for nearly two-thirds of the race and hanging on for a solid two-second time improvement.
The final individual event on this second night of competition is always the 50-yd. Freestyle. It's the one race that silences that crowd and commands their attention like no other . . . the Formula One race, the speed freaks . . . And tonight was no exception, except that mostly it was the UNLV crowd who was focused on the men's final. That's because there were seven UNLV men in the A-Final. That's right folks, seven out of eight swimmers in the water wore Rebel red. And they finished 1, 2, 3, 4 5, 6, 7. In order: Steven Nelms, Kyle Virva, Cody Roberts, Andrew Morrell, Charlie Tapp, Calan Eldridge, and Thomas Andolfsson. The top four earned NCAA B-cuts, and Nelms broke the magical :20-second barrier with a 19:97. Dominance indeed.
Nelms, Tapp, Andolfsson, and Virva later joined up to take the gold medal in the men's 200-yd. Freestyle Relay. They swam an NCAA B cut time of 1:19.24, predictably several body lengths ahead of the next fastest squad.
For the women's 50-yd. Freestyle, four Rebels represented well in the B-Final. Maddie Rousell was second with a 23.29, and freshman Haley Porter was just behind in a 23.41. Megan Clark was sixth in 23.66, and Andree Anne Genereux rounded out the field in 23.77. These same four swam almost identical splits on the 200-yd. Freestyle Relay at the end of the finals session, moving ahead of Utah and CSU in the seeding to earn fourth place.
Both the men's and women's point standings changed dramatically today. For the men, UNLV's impressive A-final showings mitigated any diving scores earned by other teams, and UNLV currently leads with 303 (BYU in second with 285.5). The women continue to heroically battle out of the hole, moving up two places today, from eighth to sixth. They are at 134 points, just seven behind CSU.
DAY ONE REPORT
The UNLV crowd got what it came for tonight, and it happened scarcely two minutes after the finish of the national anthem. The UNLV men's 200-yd. Medley Relay is – after tonight – ranked 7th in the nation! Their time of 1:26.09 is a new Mountain West Conference record by almost a full second, and is virtually assured of an invitation to the NCAA Championships in March.
As the four men drew together behind the lane-four starting block, lead-off man David Seiler began his pre-race routine. In the bleachers, senior Erin King leaned over to the coaches and whispered, "I think if I had to swim next to David Seiler, I would wet my pants."
David's pure display of energy focused in like a laser as the backstrokers entered the water, and he exploded with a 22.13. Andrew Morrell followed with a 24.15 in the breaststroke. Freshman Cody Roberts was next, swimming the fastest 50-yd. butterfly in Conference history – a 20.42. Sophomore Steven Nelms sealed the deal with a 19.39 freestyle. For the first time, every single UNLV split was faster than any corresponding split on any of the other teams. It was the fanfare that the UNLV men were looking for – a display of sheer dominance.
The women, seeded 5th, acquitted themselves well by moving up to an exciting 4th-place finish and a season-best 1:42.52. The team of Ana Dangalakova, Kelsey Clarke, Emma Gustafsson, and Megan Clark earned an NCAA B standard for their efforts.
In the only other swimming event of the evening, the 800-yd. Freestyle Relay, the men once again touched first with a 6:30.47. Pushed hard by Air Force near the 400-yd. mark, sophomore Tyler Bush walked away during the third leg, and junior Kier Maitland lengthened the gap for his anchor leg. They were joined by Calan Eldridge and Kyle Virva. Maitland and Virva were two of only three men in the entire field to split 1:36's.
The men finished the evening in third after BYU and Wyoming turned in powerful diving performances, but will look to continue their momentum in the first full day of competition tomorrow.
For the women, the 800-yd. Free Relay brought a brush with adversity. Junior Lisa Gillespie swam a gutsy anchor leg as she battled for second with a hard-charging BYU, upholding the team mantra of Win-Every-Close-Race. The UNLV team did touch second with a 7:20, but was disqualified for a false start earlier in the race. Gillespie, along with relay-mates Marva Harpak, Frida Szel, and Brittany Ozar, were unable to enjoy the satisfaction that comes with a hard-fought race, but will turn their faces toward tomorrow in a true test of character.
Without the disqualified relay's points or diving points, UNLV women currently sit at the back of the pack, but stand to move up quickly on Thursday with three good events for the Rebels on the docket.