Wrecking crew

By By Tony Pizza

By Tony Pizza

With the Utes swimming in the Ohio State Invitational against some of the toughest competition of the season, senior Amber Walter knew she would have to be at her best.

Not only did Walter’s best in the 50-yard freestyle translate into a first-place finish and secure her a spot in the NCAA Championships next year, her time of 22.59 seconds also shattered a school and Mountain West Conference record previously set by Ute All-American Heidi Hausknecht in 2001.

“Amber’s time in the 50 free is surely one of the top 10 times in the nation thus far,” U head coach Mike Litzinger said. “It was just an unbelievable job by her.”

Walter also set a new Ohio State Invitational record during a preliminary round of the 100 freestyle round with a time of 50.40. Although the time did not beat any school record, it was a personal best for Walter and the time vaulted her into the 100 freestyle championship round, which Walter went on to win as well.

Walter’s record-breaking swims were just some of the many highlights for the women’s portion of the swim team in Ohio as senior Alison McInturff and sophomore Shannon McQueen also broke school records in Ohio.

McInturff qualified for the NCAA championships with a time of 1:48.26 in the 200 freestyle, which also broke the school record she set in 2005.

McQueen also swam an NCAA qualifying time in the 100 backstroke and replaced the school record she set as a freshman with a new time of 56.09.

Walter added to her successful meet by qualifying for the NCAA championships in the 100 breaststroke as well.

Walter and McInturff formed the nucleus of a number of U relay teams that finished in one of the top two spots over the weekend.

On Friday, Jennifer Fredsall and Anne VanLeeuwen joined Walter and McInturff to finish first in the 200 free relay.

McQueen replaced VanLeeuwen in the 400 medley relay and the Utes placed second overall with a time of 3:46.38, which was just one second slower than the time posted by the Gamecock quartet from South Carolina.

On Saturday McInturff, McQueen and VanLeeuwen combined with Rachel Curci to finish first in the 800 free relay.

On the final day of competition, Walter, McInturff, VanLeeuwen and McQueen teamed up again and set an Ohio State Invitational record with a time of 3:23.81 in the 400 freestyle relay.

The combined efforts of the U women were good enough for a third-place finish as the Utes, South Carolina and Ohio State were clearly the cream of the 12-team crop on the women’s side of the pool.

“The women are swimming very fast right now, and that sets up for a great second semester for us,” Litzinger said.

The men did not have quite the immediate impact that the women had on the rest of the teams swimming at the meet, but the men did have strong showings in many events.

Though none of the men broke any school records in swimming, Andrew Jones set a Utah record in diving with a final score of 269.40 in the platform event.

Sophomore Marco Ferraro continued to emerge as one of the top male swimmers for the Utes with a seventh-place finish in the 500 free and a 10th-place finish in the grueling 1650 free event.

Andrew Cole also continued to swim strong as he placed seventh in the 200 back with a time of 1:50:41.

This went on to help the Ute men finish in the middle of the pack with a fifth-place finish out of the 12-team group.

“The guys were very solid (that) day,” Litzinger said. “We are ready to get to work on improving some things, but overall I’m very proud of this group.”

The swimming and diving team will now take a break from competition for the remainder of the 2006 calendar year.

The next chance for the Swimmin’ Utes to hit the pool competitively will be for the UCSD Invitational on Jan. 5.

The five people representing the diving team will have the opportunity to head down to Athens, Ga. to participate in the prestigious Georgia Diving Invite on the same day the swimmers head to San Diego.