The women captured their fourth straight MWC Championship title this year.
For the BYU women's swimming and diving team the 2002-2003 season was a year filled with high expectations, injuries, setbacks, struggles, triumph, and a fourth consecutive Mountain West Conference championship.
The year began for the three-time defending Mountain West Conference champion Cougars by being name the pre-season favorite to win the conference title for a fourth straight time.
Hampered by injury, the women struggled early. Four of the team's top swimmers had to sit out with injuries for the first half of the season. But the Cougar's depth helped them to still finish third at the Pacific Invitational to start out the season strong. In the meet sophomore Nichole Burrows got things off to a strong start by winning the 100-yard backstroke event and helping the Cougars to a first place finish in the 400-yard freestyle relay team.
Five days after the Pacific Invitational the Cougars kicked off the MWC season by playing host to in-state rival Utah, in the first of two meeting between the two teams. Burrows helped the Cougars out by turning in a first place performance in the 50-yard freestyle, while team captain senior Amanda Grant won the 200-yard breaststroke. In the diving events the Cougars swept the top three places in both events as senior Kelli Einfeldt won both the 1-M and the 3-M events. But the Utes proved to be too much for the Cougars as Utah went on to win its first meet in school history against the Cougars by a score of 135-112.
Looking to bounce back from the loss, the women traveled to Albuquerque, N.M. to participate in a four-team meet as well as the Lobo Invitational. The four-team meet included the Cougars, New Mexico, San Diego State, and Northern Arizona. The Cougars struggled in the meet, but still managed to place second behind New Mexico. Grant was impressive as she swam to first place finishes in both the 200-yard IM and the 200-yard breaststroke. Freshmen Natasha Schlup and Shannon Bloom won their first collegiate events as the each topped the field in the 200-yard backstroke and the 200-yard freestyle respectively.
The Lobo Invitational was held the next day at the University of New Mexico. The Cougars, now 1-2 in conference, were ready to show why they were the pre-season No. 1 in the MWC. This time the field included the Cougars, New Mexico, SDSU, New Mexico State, University of Northern Colorado, and Metro State University. After the first day of competition the Cougars had fallen back to third place, but on the second day the team came storming back behind Grant, Burrows, Bloom, and Ferrell, to win the Invitational with 948 points. Grant was named the MWC Swimmer of the Week for her performances at both the four-team meet and the Lobo Invitational.
After two weeks of rest from competition and coming off a convincing performance at the Lobo Invitational, the Cougars traveled to Las Vegas to take on UNLV and No. 23 Florida State. BYU fought hard but lost a close meet to UNLV 139-103, and gained some valuable experience against one of the top teams in the nation in FSU as the Seminoles defeated the Cougars 192-50.
In the final meet before the Holiday break, BYU traveled to Long Beach, Cali. to compete against some of the top swimmers in the country at the annual Speedo Cup Invitational. The Cougars finished a respectable ninth against the 23-team field. Seniors Tamber Covington and Amanda Grant had the strong finishes for the women, as they placed seventh and eighth respectively in the 200-yard breaststroke event. Grant also raced to a tenth place finish in the 100-yard breaststroke event.
Entering the Holiday break the Cougars had complied 1-3 conference record and a 3-4 overall record. It would be more than a month until the team would compete again and the team was looking forward to getting back some of its top athletes who had been sidelined for the first half of the season with injury.
To kick off 2003, the Cougars hosted the Beavers of Oregon State. For the first time all season the women had all of their swimmers for the meet. The Cougars started out the meet by taking the second and third place spots in the 200-medley relay. In her first meet this season, senior Cortnee Adams, a former first-team All-American, won the 50 and 100-yard freestyle events. Due to sickness among the team, the Cougars were forced to make changes in the line-up that took some swimmers out of their strongest events. As a result, the Beavers managed to squeeze out a victory over the Cougars with a final score of 131-106.
The following week the women were back in action this time against conference foe Colorado State. The veteran swimmers had a strong showing for the Cougars as Adams, Grant, Burrows, Ferrell, and Covington, each placed in the top three in every event they competed in. Adams placed second in the 200-yard freestyle and won the 100-yard freestyle events. Burrows took second place in the 200-yard backstroke and was a part of the second place 400-yard freestyle relay team. In only her third competition since returning from knee surgery, Covington won the 200-yard breast and placed third in the 200-yard IM. Grant also came up big for the Cougars by winning the 500-yard freestyle, and placing second in both the 200-yard IM and the 200-yard breaststroke. Senior diver Kelli Einfeldt helped out the Cougars by winning the 3-M and placing second in the 1-M. Yet the Rams were still too much for the Cougars as the once again lost a close meet 137-106.
With the season winding down, the women headed home to face Air Force and Wyoming in back-to-back home meets. Over the two days of competition, the women won nine of the 13 events against the Falcons, and 10 out of 13 against Wyoming. Covington had her strongest performance of the season against Air Force, winning the 200-yard IM, the 200-yard breaststroke, and swimming on the winning 400-yard medley relay team. Adams also had an impressive showing as she won the 200-yard freestyle, the 50-yard freestyle and anchored the 400-yard freestyle relay team. With the wins, the Cougars made sure that head coach Stan Crump's record remained unblemished, as Crump has never lost a meet to either school in his 22-year tenure at BYU.
Gaining momentum and heading into the final dual meet of the season before the MWC Championships, the Cougars traveled to Salt Lake City to once again compete against the University of Utah. This time the Cougars emerged victorious by a score of 139-102. Adams turned in the best performance for the women, coming away with wins in the 100 and 200-yard freestyle and then anchoring the winning 200-yard freestyle relay team in her final collegiate dual meet.
After closing out the regular season with a disappointing 3-4 conference record and an overall record of 5-6, the Cougars were more determined then ever to win their fourth consecutive MWC Championship title. After the first day of competition the team appeared to be ready to win the title as they took an early two point lead and set two new school records in the process. Adams set a new 200-yard freestyle record with a time of 1:49.34 as the leadoff leg of the 800-yard freestyle relay which team also set a new school record and won the event in a time of 7:25.98. But things got tough for the women on the second day of competition as the team fell to third place, despite Adams winning the 50-yard freestyle and Einfeldt placing second in the 3-M.
On day three a motivated and refocused Cougar women's team came storming back to finish day three back in the number one spot. The team's comeback was fueled by the efforts of the entire team, beginning with Adams' first place finish in the 200-yard freestyle. Covington won the MWC title with a time of 1:02.82 in the 100-yard breaststroke event, as the Cougars claimed four of the eight top finishes in the same event. The next event, the 100-yard backstroke, had a similar outcome with BYU again claiming four of the top eight places and Burrows leading the way for the Cougars turning a time of 56.53, good enough for third place.
Leading the eight-team field by only 30 points going into the final day of competition, the Cougars rallied to pull ahead of the pack and claim the conference title in the last seven events. Adams won her third MWC title at the championships by winning the 100-yard freestyle and besting the competition by nearly a full second with a top time of 49.83. For the second consecutive year Covington won the 200-yard breaststroke title this time she turned in a time of 2:15.50. To finish off the championships the women's 400-yard freestyle relay team finished second with a time of 3:25.03 and secured the Cougar's fourth consecutive MWC Championship title.
With their solid performances at the MWC Championships both Adams and Covington qualified for the NCAA Championships. Adams, a former All-American, placed 36th in the 50-yard freestyle with a time of 23.25, 45th in the 100-yard freestyle turning in a time of 50.66, and finished the 100-yard fly in 56.01 good enough for 45th as well. Making her first appearance at the NCAA's, Covington turned in a 28th place finish in the 100-yard breaststroke with a time of 1:03.38, and swam to a 29th place finish in the 200-yard breaststroke as she recorded a time of 2:16.96.
When the season finished the Cougars had overcome many setbacks and injuries and were once again the MWC Champions, and sent two athletes to the NCAA Championships. The women proved they could face their challenges and bounce back from them. Stan Crump was named the MWC Women's Coach of the Year for the second time since the inception of the MWC, and Grant was presented the Outstanding Female Athlete Award by the Cougar Club. With the depth and talent of the Cougar women's team fans can expect the tradition of winning to continue for many years to come.