Three-time 500 free MWC champion Natasha Menezes broke the MWC and BYU all-time records in the event on Thursday.
OKLAHOMA CITY -- After a rough start at the Mountain West Conference Swimming and Diving Championships Wednesday, the Cougar women captured the lead again, edging Wyoming by one point. The BYU men find themselves in fourth place after some great swims in Thursday’s competition.
“We had a great day of swimming today and we need to have two more days just like it,” said BYU head coach Tim Powers. “95 percent of our swims here have been lifetime bests and I am really proud of what our swimmers have done the past two days.”
Winning events for the Cougars on the day were Natasha Menezes in the 500 free, Ava Jackman on the 1-meter board, Aleesha Miller in the 50 free and the 200 free relay team of Kirsty Ferrell, Leilani Roberts, Sara Jayne Christiansen and Miller.
During the preliminary round of the 500 free, Natasha Menezes, broke the MWC record as well as the BYU all-time record with a time of 4:47.54. The BYU record hasn’t been broken since 1995—set by Cherrill Haws with a time of 4:50.70. N. Menezes was in front of the competition in prelims by six seconds. She placed first in the finals with a time of 4:47.83, earning 20 points for her team. N. Menezes has now won three consecutive 500 free titles at the MWC Championships.
“We’re excited about the way Natasha swam and are pleased with her time,” said Powers. “She got a little too excited and got out a little too fast, but still came out with an excellent swim.”
Victory runs in the blood of the Menezes family as Natasha’s sister, Michelle Menezes, placed eighth in the 500 free finals with a time of 4:57.96, posting 11 points for her Cougars. She swam a 4:55.48 in the prelims, a personal best.
After event seven (women’s 500 free), the women still found themselves in second place behind Wyoming.
John Kendrick was the sole Cougar to make it to the finals in the 500 free, placing sixth in the event with a time of 4:27.89. Teammates Stott Bushnell (4:25.72) and Jeff Ferrell (4:26.29) placed ninth and 10th, respectively, in the consolation heat. Their times were good enough to place fourth and fifth, respectively, in the final heat.
Ferrell and Bushnell congratulate each other after winning the consolation heat of the 500 free. (Stephen Nowland/NCAA Photos)
The men continued to stay in the four spot with 96.5 points after event eight.
The 200 IM was full of three BYU swimmers with Rachel Grant leading the way in fourth place with a time of 2:01.19. Leilani Roberts and Sara Jayne Christiansen placed sixth and seventh, respectively, with times of 2:03.37 and 2:03.47. The three girls added 40 points to the women’s score, bringing them 19 points away from Wyoming in first place.
Vytenis Slenys posted a 1:47.76 and 17 points in the 200 IM, placing second in the event—the only Cougar in the finals. Cougars represented in the consolation heat included Jacoby Jacobsen who finished 11th (1:51.32), Dougie Broadbent who finished 14th (1:53.01) and Kenneth Clark who finished 16th (1:54.24). Jacobsen would have finished eighth in the final heat with his time. The Cougar men stayed in fourth place after event 10 with 123.5 points.
“Vytenis was in fifth place to start out the race, but came back to finish second,” said Powers. “We’re very proud of him and the best time of his life.”
The women’s 50-yard freestyle was dominated by BYU with Aleesha Miller and Kirsty Ferrell going 1-2 in the event. Miller posted a 22.66 with Ferrell .04 seconds behind her with a time of 22.70. Both Miller and Ferrell were under the previous BYU all-time record of 22.83, held by Miller.
The duo of Miller and Ferrell tallied 37 points for their Cougars, bringing them within five points of first-place Wyoming. Their times provisionally qualified for the NCAA championships.
Gregor Greiner represented the Cougar men in the 50 free finals, placing third in the event with a time of 19.94, only three-tenths of a second behind first place. Greiner is only the second BYU swimmer to break 20.0 in the 50 free. UNLV would take first, second, fourth, a tie for fifth and ninth in the event to widen the lead. David Mason (12th, 20.70), Nikola Savic (13th, 20.72), Daniel Bates (15th, 20.88) and Andrew Merrell (16th, 20.94) would collectively score 12 points for the Cougars, helping them jump to third place, 1.5 points ahead of Wyoming.
Two-time MWC Diver of the Week, Ava Jackman, would take the 1-meter diving competition with a final score of 293.40. Tawni Jones would also find herself in the medals ceremony as she place third in the event with a score of 283.10. 11 points behind Wyoming after the 1-meter diving event, the Cougars knew they had to step it up to gain the lead.
Ava Jackman on the 1-meter board at the MWC Championships. (Stephen Nowland/NCAA Photos)
After winning the men’s 1-meter diving competition Wednesday, Ron Morris tallied a fourth-place finish on the 3-meter board with a point total of 322.00. Sam Hatch also dove in the finals, placing sixth for the Cougars with a score of 309.75. Scott Thalman (238.45) and David Corless (237.75) finished out the scoring for the Cougars in 13th and 14th place, respectively. The men found themselves back in fourth place after the 3-meter competition with 186.5 points.
The 200-yard free relay team of Kirsty Ferrell, Leilani Roberts, Sara Jayne Christiansen and Aleesha Miller won the event, setting a new MWC record with a time of 1:31.19. The team also broke the BYU all-time record set last year (1:31.86).
The 40 points from winning the relay put the Cougar women back in first place, only one point ahead of the University of Wyoming. The women had not been in first place since event one in Wednesday’s competition.
The men finished off Thursday’s competition placing second in the 200 free relay with a time of 1:20.81, the best time on the season. Nikola Savic, Daniel Bates, David Mason and Gregor Greiner swam the silver-medal time, placing the BYU men 1.5 points behind third-place Wyoming at the end of MWCC day two.
“We need to show up every section and make sure we get our people into the finals,” said Powers. “The meet is much faster than last year and there is a lot more depth in the whole conference. Everyone is swimming at a higher level.”
The Cougars will compete in the 400 IM, 100 fly, 200 free, 100 breast, 100 back, women’s platform diving and the 400 medley relay in Friday’s competition at the MWCC. Check back to www.byucougars.com/swimming_diving/ Friday night to get results from day three. Check out http://themwc.cstv.com/livestats/c-swim/results/index.htm for realtime results.
BYU head coach Tim Powers fires his team up for Thursday's competition at MWC Championships. (Stephen Nowland/NCAA Photos)
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