A Close Up View From The MWC Championships
Feb. 29, 2008
OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. - UNLV assistant coach Ben Loorz will be providing and on the deck view of the action from every day of the 2008 MWC Championships. His reports follows.
Day Four One MWC Championship, eight MWC Records, 16 UNLV Team Records, 24 1st-place finishes, three NCAA "A" cuts, 37 NCAA "B" cuts, two MWC Senior Recognition Awards, two Swimmer of the Meet Awards, and one Coach of the Year. The 2007-2008 Rebel Swimming & Diving season is one for the record books.
The final day of competition concluded in commanding style, as UNLV opened the evening's final events with a 1-2-3 sweep in the men's mile and finished it with a MWC Record in the women's 400-yd. freestyle relay. In addition, UNLV won all four major swimming awards. Seniors Johan Claar and Kim Bonney earned recognition for their years of accomplishments in leadership, athletic performance, and academics when they earned the MWC Senior Recognition Award. Kim Bonney was called back to the podium, this time with senior Richard Hortness, to be handed the Swimmer of the Meet awards. Bonney won all three of her individual events, including a MWC record-setting performance, good for an NCAA "A" cut, in the 200 breaststroke. Every race that Kim swam, including her relays, was a team record, and five of them were conference records. Richard Hortness became the first MWC swimmer in history to win the "Sprinter's Cup" - a first-place finish in the 50-yd., 100-yd., and 200-yd. freestyle events. He is currently ranked top-25 in the NCAA in all three of these events.
Head Coach Jim Reitz evaluated the meet after its conclusion: "This is perhaps the most dominating performance in UNLV history . . . certainly in Conference history. The amount of 1st-place finishes on the men's side [who won all but three individual swimming events] is completely amazing, and the number of records broken in a single meet is unsurpassed. I could not be more proud of what this squad has accomplished."
Saturday night was jump-started when freshman Kier Maitland combined with Johan Claar and freshman John Mendoza to sweep the men's 1650-yd. freestyle. Maitland's time of 15:14.31 was shy of his standing Conference record, but good for the win. Claar followed for the silver, equaling his performance from 2007 with a 15:16.46. Mendoza claimed the bronze with huge personal improvement, 15:20.88. The fact that two of the top three "milers" in the Conference are UNLV freshmen predicts a strong distance presence for years to come. Incidentally, Maitland travels to Montreal next month where he will be strong contender to make the Canadian Olympic team in this event.
The second event of the evening was the 200-yd. backstroke, and UNLV continued its dominance in this event as it did in the 100-yd. backstroke the previous night. Senior Tiger Christian earned his second MWC Champion title, winning the event with a time of 1:46.49 (an NCAA "B" cut). He was joined by Devin Phillips, 2nd place with a 1:47.27, and Jeff Ellingson, 6th in a 1:49.39. The women once again answered the challenge thrown out by the men by exceeding their performance. After placing 2nd in the 100 backstroke the night before, junior Amanda Weinbrecht was able to put together a commanding swim, walking away from the field in the last 25 yards to go a "B" cut 1:59.46, grabbing the gold medal. She was followed closely by teammates Ana Dangalakova (2nd place, 2:01.28) and Lisa Gillespie (3rd place, 2:01.50) for the clean 1-2-3 sweep.
Richard Hortness never looked back in the 100-yd. freestyle, as expected. After swimming to a team record of 43.63 in the morning, Hortness lowered the time at night with a 43.52, a full second ahead of the nearest competitor. Hortness will swim this event at the Canadian Olympic Trials next month. For the women, seniors Megan Hunt-Higgins and Marina Sandback earned the silver and bronze medals, respectively. Their times of 49.85 and 50.29 were both NCAA "B" cuts. Sophomore Marva Harpak was 7th in a 51.15.
The next event of the evening was the men's 200-yd. breaststroke. Senior Jonas Andersson proved his superiority by swimming a 1:57.03, his second NCAA "A" cut of the weekend. He was over 2 seconds ahead of the 2nd-place swimmer as he powered his way his second individual title. Andersson will likely be the breaststroker for the Swedish 400-yd. medley relay at this summer's Olympic Games, and is currently ranked in the top-10 in the NCAA for both his primary events. For the women, Kim Bonney cemented her "Swimmer of the Meet" status by swimming to a new conference record and NCAA "A" cut in the morning (2:14.15). Endeavoring to "back off" at night so that she might save enough speed for the final relay, Bonney failed for the first time - instead of going slower, Bonney lengthened her stride out to a 2:13.95, breaking her own record and becoming one of the fastest breaststrokers in the country (currently ranked 27th). Freshman Kelsey Clarke rounded out the top-8 with a 2:22.16 (8th).
The men's 200-yd. butterfly saw sophomore Daniel Egly rise to the occasion. He swam to a 2nd-place finish with an NCAA "B" time of 1:48.03. Junior Peter Lorring was 5th, swimming a 1:49.90. For the women, Jenna Neff concluded her UNLV career with an 8th place in the women's event, her second top-8 finish of the week.
The swimming concluded for the evening with two of the closest races in the whole weekend, the 400-yd. freestyle relays. The men were touched out by a surprisingly strong TCU team, but their time of 2:58.26 was good for second place and an NCAA "B" time. Team members were Richard Hortness, Tamas Bosnyak, Calan Eldridge, and Johan Claar. The men finished the meet with a commanding score of 800 points, over 100 points ahead of rival BYU. The women finished the weekend on what became commonplace throughout the weekend - a thrilling and commanding victory. Dead even with BYU and Utah through the first 3 legs of the relay, UNLV sent senior Marina Sandback into the water to seal the deal. Splitting a 49.83 enabled Sandback to bring her relay - including Megan Hunt-Higgins, Kim Bonney, and Marva Harpak - home in a new conference record time of 3:21.27. The final cheers as competition came to a close Saturday night were "Rebels! Rebels! Rebels!"
Day Three UNLV Swimming & Diving continued the best sustained effort in the history of the conference on Friday, the second full day of competition. The records continued to fall as the men maintained their lead and the women moved into second.
The evening opened with the toughest event of them all, the 400-yd. individual medley. Distance freestyle specialist John Mendoza, after earning a second place in the 500 free the previous night, showed some unexpected diversity by destoying his consolation final. His time of 3:57.14 was a six-second drop from the morning swim, and was the fourth-fastest time overall (including the "A" final). Fellow freestyler Kier Maitland moved up a place to grab seventh in the event. For the women, Ana Dangalakova swam a personal best 4:23.37 to claim the bronze medal, while freshman Lisa Gillespie finished eighth with a 4:27.04.
Tiger Christian, in his busiest day of the meet, claimed third in the men's 100-yd. butterfly with an NCAA "B" cut of 48.31. He barely touched out teammate Peter Lorring, who was fourth with a 48.33. Notably, freshman Kyle Virva dominated the "B" final with a 49.12, indicating UNLV's prowess in this event for the future. The women competed with three women in the top final. Led by Marina Sandback, UNLV placed second, fourth, and sixth. Sandback's time of 54.44 was good for the silver and the team record; Jenna Neff claimed fourth with a 55.11, and junior Amanda Weinbrecht moved up from eighth to sixth with a 55.31. All three ladies earned the NCAA "B" cut. Incidentally, this was Neff's first-ever top-8 finish at a championship meet.
UNLV had high hopes for the men's 200-yd. freestyle after their stunning performance in the 4x200 freestyle relay on Wednesday night, and the athletes didn't disappoint. Senior Richard Hortness won his second individual event of the meet with a time of 1:36.55, just shy of his lead-off split from the relay. Johan Claar claimed 4th with a 1:38.41, while Magnus Egmar rounded out the top eight with his first-ever "A" final appearance. The women had three representatives in the consolation final, with Marva Harpak as the dominating performer. Dropping nearly three seconds from her preliminary swim, Harpak easily won the race with a 1:49.82. This time was an NCAA "B" cut and the fourth-fastest time in the event.
In the most jaw-dropping individual event of the evening, senior Jonas Andersson swam an NCAA "A" cut in the 100-yd. breaststroke. His time of 53.46 automatically qualifies Andersson for the fastest swim meet in the country. It also broke one of the fastest records in the books, Olympic medalist Scott Usher's conference record of 53.75. Tamas Bosnyak claimed a solid fourth in the event with a lifetime-best 56.04. Not to be outdone, Kim Bonney claimed her second individual gold of the week by winning the women's event in a team-record time of 1:02.22. Freshmen Lexy Graham and Kelsey Clarke look to follow in Bonney's footsteps in years to come. They finished fifth and eighth, respectively, with times of 1:05.27 and 1:05.79.
The final individual event of the evening was the 100-yd. backstroke, and UNLV proved its superiority in an event it has dominated all year long. Seniors Tiger Christian and Devin Phillips were joined by junior Jeff Ellingson to claim three of the top four places. Christian claimed his first-ever MWC championship title by swimming a 48.67 - the only NCAA cut in the field. Phillips was second with a 48.93, and Ellingson fourth in 49.08. Once again, the women were equally impressive as backstroke specialist Amanda Weinbrecht - unbeaten this year by any MWC athlete in the event - went head-to-head with the red-hot Megan Hunt-Higgins. Higgins emerged with the win, touching out Weinbrecht in a race that came down to the very last stroke. Their respective times of 54.68 and 54.87 were good for #2 and #3 on the UNLV all-time list, as well as NCAA "B" cuts.
And, once again, the UNLV relays left every Rebel fan with an adrenaline rush as they broke two conference records. The men's team of Tiger Christian, Jonas Andersson, Peter Lorring, and Richard Hortness swam a stunning 3:13.44, nearly five seconds ahead of the nearest competitor and half a second under the old record. The women were Amanda Weinbrecht, Kim Bonney, Marina Sandback, and Megan Hunt-Higgins, who combined to break their second medley relay record of the meet. Their time of 3:41.63 was over a full second under the old conference record.
The domination continues tomorrow, Saturday, as the meet comes to close. The men seek to increase their lead over rivals Wyoming and BYU, while the women are fighting to close the gap on BYU while they pull away from Wyoming. Go Rebels!
The men lengthened their lead and the women moved into third on the first full day of competition at the MWC swimming & diving championship. The morning session was an up-and-down affair. Many top-seeded Rebels failed to qualify for the top 8, but this was overshined by several outstanding swims. Notably, senior Megan Hunt-Higgins broke the oldest UNLV record in the books by swimming a 22.93 in the 50-yd. free.
The roller coaster morning was eclipsed, however, by the greatest night of Rebel swimming MWC history. Winning nine of a possible ten swimming events left no doubt of Rebel dominance. The commanding performances were initiated by Johan Claar. Leading from wire to wire in the 500-yd. freestyle, Claar clocked in a personal best of 4:21.67. He was followed closely by sophomore John Mendoza, 2nd place with a 4:23.55, who took BYU's top contender to the wall, forcing the Cougars to settle for bronze. Freshman Kier Maitland claimed 4th place with a 4:26.66. On the women's side, sophomore Marva Harpak swam a lifetime best to move up in the standings, earning 5th place with a 4:54.36.
After being relegated to second-place finishes for the 2007 championship, senior Devin Phillips finally claimed the gold medal in the 200 I.M. Swimming a time of 1:49.01 was good for the win, while teammates Tamas Bosnyak and Jonas Andersson also finished in the top 8 (7th and 8th, respectively). Senior Kim Bonney took the reins for the women's side, smashing the field with her breaststroke leg of the individual medley (33.5). Her winning time of 2:01.47 was good for the UNLV team record and the gold medal, as she made a statement by dominating the Cougars in one of their best events.
Diving was once again a highlight for the Rebel men, but this time it was sophomore Matt Arb who slipped into the top 8. The 1-meter board is by far Arb's best event, and he showed it tonight by hitting every dive in fine style. This is Arb's first time in an "A" final.
The final individual event of the evening was the always exciting 50-yd. freestyle. Senior Richard Hortness exactly matched his preliminary time of 19.73 to claim the win. Hortness' phenomenal reaction time put him out front from the sound of the gun, and the rest of the field saw his wake for the entire race. In a surprise upset, sophomore Thomas Andolffson claimed the silver medal from lane 8 with a time of 20.16. These times were the only NCAA cuts in the field. Freshman Calan Eldridge rounded out the top 8, earning 11 points for the Rebels. And, as before, the women answered the call sounded by the men. Megan Hunt-Higgins lowered her team record from the morning by swimming a 22.86, making her this year's MWC Champion. Teammate Marina Sandback was third with an NCAA "B" cut time of 23.10, also under the old team record.
The men's 200-yd. freestyle relay was able to stave off the hungry BYU and TCU squads for the win, due in large part to Richard Hortness' blazing lead-off leg. He swam a 19.62, which registers as an official time that will be good for the UNLV team record, and, once again, putting the competition into a hole from which they could not recover. Devin Phillips, Tiger Christian, and Thomas Andolfsson joined Hortness for a 1:20.01, and NCAA "B" cut. The women closed off the evening on an adrenaline high in the most hotly contested race of the evening. With only three-tenths of a second separating the top three teams, the Rebels grabbed a first place finish when senior Marina Sandback executed a flawless flipturn, accelerating to out-touch rival BYU by a mere .03 seconds. The team consisted of Megan Hunt-Higgins, Kim Bonney, and freshman Madison Roussell. Their time of 1:31.83 is a new MWC record - the third conference relay record for UNLV this week so far - and an NCAA "B" cut.
UNLV enters one of its best days tomorrow with the 100's in butterfly, backstroke, and breaststroke, along with the 200 freestyle and 400 I.M.
In the most dramatic opening night for UNLV Swimming and Diving in its MWC history, the Swimming Rebels dominated the opening event, the 200-yd. medley relay. The men swam first, with Tiger Christian leading off in a blazing-fast 22.5 backstroke, immediately putting rival BYU in the Rebel wake. Jonas Andersson (breaststroke), Peter Lorring (butterfly), and Thomas Andolfsson (freestyle) finished the job as UNLV led from wire to wire. The winning time of 1:28.72 was an NCAA "B" cut and over half a second ahead of the next competitor.
The women rode the wave of adrenaline to an incredible performance of their own, electrifying the crowd with a 1:40.23. This unbelievable performance is nearly a FULL TWO SECONDS under the old conference record and the winning time from last year; in such a short race, this is a jaw-dropping reduction. Earning an NCAA "B" cut, this relay is currently ranked 17th in the country. The team consisted of Amanda Weinbrecht, Kim Bonney, Marina Sandback, and Megan Hunt-Higgins.
Rebel Diving had a shining moment on this first night of competition when sophomore Vinny English became the first male UNLV diver to earn a top-8 finish in several years. Finishing 8th on the 3-meter board was an important part of keeping UNLV's point total ahead of BYU, and the men advance to the 1-meter board tomorrow.
The evening was capitulated by an enormous win for the men in the 800-yd. freestyle relay. Richard Hortness, Devin Phillips, Calan Eldridge, and Johan Claar combined to destroy the existing MWC record by almost 2 seconds. Their time of 6:29.39 was seven seconds ahead of the nearest competitor, as UNLV owned almost a pool-length of open water between their anchor, senior Johan Claar, and the rest of the field. This dominating performance currently ranks 5th in the country. Lead-off swimmer Richard Hortness was the catalyst to the record, touching in an official 1:36.13. This time is a UNLV school record, and currently stands as the 18th fastest time in the NCAA.
The women completed this energizing evening with a solid 3rd-place showing in the 800-yd. freestyle relay. Sophomores Marva Harpak and Ana Dangalakova joined senior Kari Nettenstrom and freshman Lisa Gillespie for a final time of 7:25.01. The women look to steadily progress toward the top of the standings as they move into their best events on Friday and Saturday.