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Hilltoppers come from behind to take SBC swimming championship
Dave Carson / Staff Writer
The Mean Green swimming and diving team led the Sun Belt Conference meet for two of four days but failed to bring home its first championship, as Western Kentucky University captured its ninth conference championship.
The Mean Green broke 14 of 19 school records at the meet. Sophomore Kimmy Phillips shattered the SBC record in the 1,650-yard freestyle by finishing almost seven seconds faster than the record of 16 minutes 20 seconds previously held by UNT assistant coach Michele Lowry.
“We had a good meet with a lot to happy about,” head coach Joe Dykstra said. “It never feels good not to win, but we are building a strong program here at UNT.”
The meet started on Wednesday as the Mean Green took second place in the 200- and 800-yard medley relays. The team set new school records in both events.
At the end of day one, WKU held a two-point lead over Florida International University and a four-point lead over UNT.
On Thursday, the Mean Green distance swimmers dominated in the pool as senior freestyle swimmer Catia Weickgenant won the 500-yard freestyle for the third year in a row in come-from-behind fashion ahead of two of her teammates.
“In the final 200 yards I knew it was time to turn on the speed,” Weickgenant said. “My teammates are the toughest competition I have, and to do this three years in a row, I am still trying to believe it.”
On the three-meter board, junior diver Catherine Johnson finished in third place ahead of junior Rebecca Taylor in fourth, senior Delia Covo in fifth and sophomore Bobbi Bliss in sixth, giving the team 58 points out of 118 possible in the event.
At the end of the day two, the Mean Green was able to move into first place with 295 points followed by WKU with 287 and FIU with 236.
On Friday, sophomore backstroke swimmer Mona Groteguth won the 100-yard butterfly and sophomore breaststroke simmer Krista Rossum won the 100-yard breaststroke, but WKU was building points by placing more swimmers in the final events.
On the 1-meter diving board, Johnson brought home another third place finish.
At the end of day three the Mean Green still held a 14-point lead over WKU.
Phillips and freshman distance swimmer Jana Burkard took the top two spots in the 1,650-yard freestyle – Saturday night’s first event.
By breaking the SBC record, Phillips becomes the first UNT swimmer to earn a spot in the NCAA meet, which will take place in Indianapolis, Ind., from March 21-23.
“It was exciting to break the record,” Phillips said. “My season in not over. Now I have to prepare for NCAA meet.”
In the final three events, WKU had season-best performances from its swimmers to overtake UNT. WKU finished with 853 points with the Mean Green in second with 828.
“We are going to walk out of here with our heads high,” Dykstra said. “Our team is getting faster every day and we have recruits coming in that will improve our team.”