Cougars Ready to Defend MWC Title
The women's and the No. 15 men's swimming and diving teams are headed to Oklahoma City, Okla., to participate in the Mountain West Conference swimming and diving championships. The four-day event begins Wednesday with relays and concludes Saturday.
Regular Season Wrap-Up
The men finished the dual meet season ranked No. 15 in the nation with a perfect 12-0 record, the first time a men's team has gone undefeated in BYU history. The women compiled a 14-4 record with its only conference losses coming to UNLV and Colorado St.
Mountain West Conference Honors
BYU athletes were honored 15 times this season as the Mountain West Conference Swimmer and Diver of the Week, more than any other conference opponent. Sophomore diver Kelli Einfeldt led the way with three such honors. Others winning the honor once were swimmers Tamber Covington, Heidi Lietz, Melissa Thompson and diver Anna Tutunnikova. For the men, senior All-American Arunas Savickas was honored two times while sophomore diving All-American Aaron Russell also won the award twice. Gary Tan, Jeff Mason, and divers Justin Wilcock and Viraj Patil, all won the award once.
BYU Compared to the Rest of the Conference
Savickas is a leading candidate to be named conference Swimmer of the Year, as he holds conference-best times in three events (200, 500 and 1000 free) headed into this week's championships. Tan, a sophomore, is also the conference's top swimmer in the 200 IM, the 100 back and the 200 back. Freshman Nick Tobler holds runner-up times in the 100 and the 200 breast. Russell, Wilcock and Patil are also among the top conference divers for the Cougars. The men have conference-best times in all five relays. For the women, senior Jennifer Tasker has the conference's best time in the 100 breast while Lietz has the top time in the 50 free and the second-fastest time in the 100 free. Amy McClellan, Covington and Ashlee Rumfallow all have runner-up conference times. Einfeldt is the leading scorer on the 3-meter board, with Tutunnikova close behind.
Overall Team Competition
For the men, the race for the conference crown will likely be between BYU and UNLV. Leading the Rebels are Piotr Krzyskow, Jacint Simon and Andrew Livingston. Krzyskow leads the conference in both sprints, the 50 and the 100 free, while Simon leads the conference in the 1650 free, and has runner-up times in the 500 and 1000 free behind behind Savickas. Livingston has conference-best times in the 100 and the 200 fly. All UNLV relay teams are second in the conference behind BYU. On the women's side, it will be a battle between UNLV, Colorado State and BYU, with any of those three teams capable of grabbing the MWC title. UNLV does not carry any divers, so the pressure will be on the swimmers to make up the points in the individual and relay races. BYU fell to Colorado State and UNLV in the regular season. UNLV swimmers have conference-best times in six events and four of the five relays, while CSU swimmers have two conference-best times and also have the best time in the 400 free relay.
Last Year's Conference Championships
Several of last year's winning athletes return this season. Savickas won two individual titles (100 and 200 back), one relay (800 free relay) and had a runner-up finish in the 500 free last year. Rob Morris and Alex Denke also swam on the winning 800 free relay team. Russell won the 1-meter springboard while sophomore Amanda Grant won her first-ever collegiate race by winning the 100 breast.
BYU's swimmers will have the opportunity to qualify either automatically or provisionally for the NCAA Championships in March with their times at the MWC Championships. Savickas and freshman Gary Tan have excellent chances at qualifying for the men, while junior Jennifer Tasker could get a provisional mark for the women. Divers will have the chance to qualify at the Zone E Qualifying Meet March 9-10.
Mountain West Conference Swimming and Diving Championship results will be available daily, from Wednesday to Saturday, on the official BYU athletics Web site, www.byucougars.com.