BYU Jumps Out to Commanding Lead in Day One of MWC Champs

OKLAHOMA CITY -- With wins in three of the first six events, the BYU men's and women's swimming and diving teams both jumped out to dominant first-place showings in the first day of the inaugural Mountain West Conference Championships.

After the first of four days of competition, the BYU women lead with a score of 133, ahead of Utah's 111. The Cougar men are first with a score of 137, 48 points better than their nearest competitor, Air Force Academy.

The BYU divers were unbeatable in the first of three diving events, the 1-meter board. All-American Rachelle Smith Kunkel claimed first for the women with a score of 442.85, followed by teammate Anna Tutunnikova. The Cougars finished 1-2-3 in the men's event, with freshman Aaron Russell grabbing his first conference title. Teammates Devan Porter and Viraj Patil, 1999 conference champions in the 3-meter and platform events, finished second and third.

In the first race of the night, the BYU women's free relay team of Heidi Lietz, Jann Pickens, Valynn Woolley and Hanalee Hawkins edged out UNLV by just over six-tenths of a second. Their winning time of 1:34.26 was the best of the season by three seconds and gave the Cougars 40 points. Later, the 200 medley relay team beat a nine-year-old school record when it picked up a second-place victory, falling out of first by just .16 seconds. The team's time of 1:44.27 beat the old BYU record of 1:44.46 set in 1991.

The men's 200 free relay team struggled, falling into last place, but the 200 medley relay team of Arunas Savickas, John Lowry, Kenny Carpenter and Jay Buys made up for it with a strong second-place time that just barely failed to make the NCAA provisional mark.

The Mountain West Conference Swimming and Diving Championships resume Thursday, with highlights including the 50 and 500 freestyle events and 3-meter diving competition.