Cougars Overcome Slow Start to Win Fifth MWC Crown
Coach Stan Crump had a plan going into the 2003-04 swimming season. He was going to work his team hard at the beginning of the season and slowly taper off their workouts as the team got closer to the conference championships. His philosophy had yielded four consecutive MWC championships, so there was no reason to doubt that it wouldn't work this year.
The season opened with a meet against the team's biggest rival, Utah. The two teams dueled back and forth, but the Utes prevailed 148 to 140. Nichole Tolley, Carolyn Wigginton and Brittany Davis led the Cougar 300-yard backstroke team to victory, while freshman diver Mindy Jones placed first in the 1-meter dive.
Following the season opening meet with Utah, the team traveled to the Big West Shootout where they competed against six other teams, finishing the meet with a 5-3 record. Cougars placing in the top-three overall were Tamber Covington (3rd, 200 breaststroke), Brittany Davis (2nd, 500 free), Mindy Jones (1st, 3-meter springboard) and Rachelle Routsong (2nd, 1-meter springboard). The team also placed second in the 400 free relay.
Following her performance at the Big West Shootout, Davis, who was swimming in her second collegiate meet, was named the MWC swimmer of the week.
The Cougars opened the conference season with a 138-105 loss to UNLV. Despite the loss BYU had many swimmers perform well. Coming off here excellent performance at the Big West Shootout, Davis placed third in her two events (200 IM and 500 free).
Natasha Schlup (200 back) and Shannon Bloom (100 free) were the only Cougar individual swimmer to place first, but BYU also placed first in the 400 free relay. Placing second for the Cougars were Bloom (200 free), Covington (200 breast) and Nichole Tolley.
Freshman diver Mindy Jones swept both diving events, placing first in both the 1- and 3-meter competition.
The Cougars quickly rebounded from the loss to the rebels by defeating San Diego State the following afternoon 177-123. Jones continued her dominance from the night before, sweeping both diving events against the Aztecs as well. For her efforts, Jones was named the MWC diver of the week.
Davis placed first in the 200 free and 200 back against the Aztecs, while Monica Ferrell (100 fly), Jamie Lambert (100 breast), McAllister (200 breast) and Carolyn Wigginton (100 back) also earned first place finishes. BYU also placed first in the 200 free and 200 medley relays.
Next up for the Cougars was the Speedo Cup, a meet that included some of the best teams in the nation as well as a couple of MWC rivals.
BYU finished fourth in the three-day competition, ahead of Air Force and Colorado State. Brittany Davis finished third in the 200 back, while the 200 free relay team also finished third.
Before breaking for the Christmas holiday, the divers competed at the BYU Diving Invitational held at the Richards building pool. The team faced off against divers from UNLV. Wendy Poppleton placed third in the 3-meter, while her teammate Ashley Campbell placed second in the platform and third in the 1-meter.
Following Christmas training in Claremont, Calif., the team returned to MWC competition against Colorado State and New Mexico at home. The team lost to preseason favorite CSU 191-109.
Colorado State won seven races by less than one second, including the 200 medley relay, 200 free, 100 back, 50 free, 200 back, 200 breast and 200 free relay. Two Cougars, Nikki Xanthos (100 breast) and Davis (500 free), won their races.
The next day the team defeated New Mexico 174-125. After losing so many races the previous night, the team came out determined and placed first in nine events. Davis continued to shine, winning her two races, the 200 free and 200 back, and swam on the relay team that placed first. Xanthos followed up her victory against the Rams the night before with another victory in the 100 breast.
Also placing first for BYU against New Mexico were Lyndi Juvan (100 fly), Lambert (50 free), McAllister (200 breast) and Wigginton (100 back). The Cougars also placed first in the 200 medley relay.
BYU hit the road for two more conference meets against Air Force and Wyoming, winning both meets. Against the Falcons, BYU prevailed 142-101.
Coach Crump was especially pleased with the performance of Schlup (200 back) and Bloom (200 free), who were both coming off of illnesses. Schlup won her race, while Bloom finished right behind Brittany Davis. Davis also won the 500 free.
The altitude in Laramie, Wyo. didn't affect the team as they won a close meet, 125-118 against the Cowboys. Wyoming jumped out to an early 18-point lead with their divers won both the 1- and 3-meter competition, but the Cougars fought back.
Davis and Xanthos continued to swim well with Davis placing first in the 200 free and 100 back, while Xanthos captured another first place finish in the 100 breast--her third victory this season. Also placing first for BYU were Nichole Tolley (50 free) and the 200 free and 200 medley relays.
Utah came to Provo for the final conference dual meet of the season. The Utes had defeated BYU in a preseason meet, and the Cougars were determined to defeat Utah and derail the Utes' perfect season.
The meet came down to the final race of the night, the 400 free relay. When Brittany Davis entered the pool for the final leg of the race, BYU was behind, but Davis edged Utah's Melissa Young to the wall to give BYU a 127-110 victory.
Besides her heroics in the 400 free relay, Davis also won the 200 and 500 free to earn her second MWC swimmer of the week honor. The Cougars dominated the 200 breast, going 1-2-3 with McAllister placing first. With the victory, BYU finished 5-2 in the MWC and 10-5 overall.
Next up for BYU was the MWC Championships held at the Aquatics Center at Oklahoma City College in Oklahoma City, where BYU would win its fifth straight conference championship.
Davis continued her strong performance breaking the BYU and MWC record in the 200 back, while recording an NCAA qualifying time of 1:58.00. She also set the school record in the 100 back with a time of 55.59. Davis won the 200 back and 500 free and placed second in the 100 back.
Besides Davis, BYU had two other individual MWC champions. Tamber McAllister repeated as champion in the 200 breast and Nikki Xanthos continued to shine in the 100 breast, placing first. BYU also had two relays, the 200 free and 400 medley, place first.
Davis and Xanthos were the only Cougars to qualify for the NCAA championships in College Station, Texas. Davis qualified in the 100 and 200 back and the 500 free, while Xanthos qualified in the 100 breast.
Neither swimmer advanced to the finals in any of their events, but both set school and conference records in their events for short course meters.
The 2003-04 season ended the same way as it has the previous four years with a MWC championship. Despite struggling during the early part of the season, the team was able to come together in the end to reach their goal of another conference title.