Rebels Open Defense Of MWC Title
Feb. 21, 2006
LAS VEGAS - The UNLV men's and women's swimming and diving teams look to defend their conference championship titles from last year as the Rebels begin action in the 2006 MWC Championship meet this week in Oklahoma City, Okla., at the Oklahoma City Community College. The meet begins on Wednesday with the 1-meter diving, the 200 yard medley relay and 800 yard free relay on the first day of competition. The four-day meet will continue through Saturday.
The Rebels won their first-ever MWC titles last season, breaking BYU's five-year hold on the conference championship. Both meets however look to be wide open this year. BYU is the favorite on the men's side, after going 5-0 during the regular season, though the Rebel men are expected to be right up there with the Cougars, going 4-1 during the year. Utah actually won the regular season title on the women's side with an 8-0 record, while UNLV, BYU, and TCU all were tied for second at 6-2, which should make for a very competitive meet this week.
Three returning conference championships and two outstanding freshmen will pace the Rebel men's squad. Senior Joe Bartoch, two-time MWC champion (2003, 2005) and record-holder in the 100 fly looks to win the event for the third time, and is also a threat in both the 50 and 100 frees. Classmate Brandon Nelms looks to defend his 50 free title, and will also be a strong threat in the 100 free, while Adam Martinson is a two-time defending champion in the 200 back. He was also runner-up in the 100 back the last two years to graduated teammate Jonathan Hugo, leaving the event wide open this year.
A pair of Swedes, Johan Claar and Jonas Andersson, should make their presence know this year at the conference meet for UNLV. Claar is one of the top distance swimmers in the conference, ranking first in the 500 free and second in both the 200 and 1650 frees entering the championships. Meanwhile, Andersson has the league's third-fastest time this year in both the 100 and 200 breasts.
The UNLV women boast just two returning champions, sophomore Kim Bonney, who won the 200 breast in 2005, and Julie Babin, the 400 IM winner in 2004. Bonney is not only a threat to claim her second 200 breast title, she will compete in the 100 breast as well. Katie Wronn holds the league's second-fastest 50 free time and is ranked fourth in the 100 free, while Jessie Bradshaw has swam the MWC's fastest 100 back this year. A trio of freshmen will also be big in UNLV's chances, led by Bailey Kuestermeyer, who holds the league's fastest time in the 200 breast and the 400 IM. Also looking to make an impact will be Ana Dangalakova and Amanda Weinbrecht.