U women set records, finish second at conference championships

By By Tony Pizza and By Tony Pizza

By Tony Pizza

It seems that breaking a handful of school and conference records was not enough for the women of the U swimming and diving team to capture their second consecutive Mountain West Conference Championships crown this weekend.

The U women shattered five school records — including three MWC top times — but the Utes still finished in second place with 618 points, behind archrival BYU with 747 points.

“We’re disappointed that we didn’t win, but it was a great battle,” U head coach Mike Litzinger said. “We’ve battled BYU all season long. We won our share of events but just didn’t come out on top.”

Seniors Amber Walter and Alison McInturff continued their run of dominance as the two played a part in breaking all five school records in Oklahoma City.

Walter set a new school and MWC record in the 50-yard freestyle swim with a time of 22.51, beating the old record of 22.78. McInturff broke two school records by herself in the 200-yard individual medley and the 200-yard free. McInturff and Walter joined forces with Jennifer Fredsall and Annie VanLeeuwen to set a new school and conference record in the 200-yard free relay. Then, freshman Shannon McQueen replaced Fredsall on the 400-yard free relay, and the U women went on to set a new school record in that event as well.

Kelsey Patterson also continued her dominance on the diving side of the pool. Patterson took home first-place honors in the 3-meter and platform diving events. Patterson’s performance captured MWC Diver of the Meet honors, while Walter cleaned up Swimmer of the Meet honors to cap off a great season in conference action for the exiting seniors.

Despite the Utes’ success, the team proved to be no match for BYU over the four-day event.

The Cougars, who narrowly fell to Utah in the regular season, proved to be the stronger team in Oklahoma. The Cougars jumped out to an early 34-point lead after day one of the Championships, and they never looked back. By the end of day two, the Cougars had built a nearly insurmountable 91-point lead, and the Utes never got closer than that again.

While the second-place finish may have ended Utah’s perfect season, a few Utes still have more to look forward to.

Walter and McInturff will be representing Utah at the NCAA Championships March 8 to 10 before the two seniors hang up their swimsuits for the last time as members of the U swim team. Patterson also has the chance to compete in the NCAA Championships if she can make the grade on Wednesday at the NCAA Regional Qualifiers.

For the U men, their fifth-place finish is a bit of a disappointment for a team that looked poised to make a strong showing at the Championships this year.

Despite not having a single first-place finish at the Conference Championships, many of the Ute men had their best times of the season. Michael DeCarolis finished second in the 100-yard breaststroke event with a time of 1:48.91, and senior Andrew Cole saw his collegiate career come to a close by swimming a time of 1:48.91 in the 200-yard backstroke event, which was good enough for third place.

“I’m so proud of our guys. We swam well and had a number of best times,” Litzinger said. “Our seniors have had a great four years and congratulations go to them for the job they did and the support for this program that they have given. It’s been a great ride and I’m proud of every one of them.”

The Ute women finished the season 10-0, including a perfect 8-0 in conference play. The men finished the season 5-6, including a 2-3 record in the conference. The high note for the men was an upset victory over Air Force in the second-to-last meet of the regular season.