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Sun Belt series, part six: swimming and diving
Dave Carson / Staff Writer
For the third year in a row and in the team’s final year in the Sun Belt Conference, UNT will host the conference tournament, where the Mean Green has taken third place behind Western Kentucky University and University of Denver in the past four years.
The good news for the Mean Green is that Denver is no longer a member of the SBC. The school moved to the Western Athletic Conference last season.
Mean Green swimming and diving began in 1998 as a member of the Big West Conference. In 2000, the Mean Green left for the Sun Belt, but the team did not have success until the hiring of head coach Joe Dykstra.
Dykstra, who was previously an assistant coach at the University of Washington and a volunteer assistant at the University of Tennessee, was hired in 2006.
In his first year as the Mean Green coach, the team ranked No. 24 among mid-majors. The following year Dykstra was named the 2008 SBC Women’s coach of the year and the Mean Green ranked No. 15 among mid-majors.
Given the six years to develop his team, Dykstra now has the team ranked No. 4 among mid-majors heading into the team’s final meet of the season.
The Mean Green has its sights set on taking the SBC in its final year before the team moves to Conference USA.
“This is the strongest team that we have had here,” Dykstra said. “Our upper classmen have shown the lower classman what it takes to compete at this level.”
Senior free swimmer Catia Weickgenant goes into the SBC with a bull’s eye on her back as she is a back-to-back gold medalist in the 500-yard freestyle. She also took silver in the event her freshman year.
“It feels good knowing that people are coming for me,” Weickgenant said. “I think the biggest threat out there to take me down is on our team.”
Sophomore Kimmy Phillips, defending bronze medalist in the 1650-yard freestyle, is down to her last shot to dethrone assistant head coach Michele Lowry’s SBC record time of 16 minutes 25 seconds.
“It’s getting close,” Lowry said. “I really want her to break it, and she is putting in the hard work to accomplish it.”
The Mean Green is determined to take the SBC championship in its final year before moving to Conference USA.