The CSU swimming and diving team finished second in the Mountain West at the end of the regular season. When the team left for Oklahoma last week they expected similar results in the all-important conference finals. However, the team had to settle for fifth place, numerous school records and a coaching title.
The first day of the tournament the Rams hit the pool swimming. Two relay teams scratched out school records, one held in part by six-time gold medalist Amy Van Dyken.
The first team competing in the 200-meter medley was made up of Breann Fuller, Nicole Lynch, Nora Kennedy and Sam Dole, placed third overall but set the impressive new mark at 1:41.85, beating a record held at CSU since 1994. The second record-breaking relay team, Jennifer Muniz, Charlie Swearingen, Michelle Price and Carmen Gisella Cianci, squeaked out a new record in the 800-meter freestyle by three-hundredths of a second.
“We had a great day,” said Head Coach John Mattos. “We couldn’t have done a whole heck of a lot better than we did. We had a great start.”
The Rams also got some help from their high flyers, as freshman Shayna Solomon finished in the top 10 of the three-meter competition. The Rams ultimately ended the day in seventh place.
The second day of the championships was just as exciting, as the sophomores led the way to bring CSU up to fifth place. Fort Collins native Maddie Gamble started Thursday morning by beating the school record in the 500-meter freestyle event, and ended it by beating her own record.
“Our swims were awesome,” Mattos said. “Maddie going 4:53.23, setting our school record, and re-breaking the record she set in the morning, was phenomenal.”
Also on Thursday, sophomore Samantha Dole landed in third place in the 50-meter freestyle before joining Fuller, Emily Molzahn, and Charlie Swearingen to beat another school record in 200-meter freestyle relay, once again breaking a Van Dyken record.
The Rams, who were using the new Laser suits, found that the upgrade in gear may have hindered their time in and out of the pool.
“We’re still having issues with our suits,” Mattos said Thursday. “We didn’t get our full order of fast suits, and some of them are breaking on us. It’s getting a little on the frustrating side, but we’re dealing with it.”
The third day of competition ended the same way it began – with the Rams in fifth. Similarities were the theme of the day, as another swimmer set and broke her own record. Interior design major Nicole Lynch set the record for the 100-meter breaststroke and gained CSU some points with her fourth-place finish.
Another 100-meter event also had new records set, as Fuller took first place in the backstroke. Her time of 52.95 seconds set a conference record and punched her ticket to the NCAA Championships.
Jen Muniz also broke a school record in the 400-meter individual medley, taking sixth in the event. With records being shattered and confidence levels high the Rams knew what it would take on the final day.
“We’ve just worked so hard all year,” Samantha Dole said Friday. “We’ve just got to give it everything we have left (Saturday) and really support and motivate each other.”
No doubt the Rams did just that. However, the results of the meet didn’t match the heart put into it by the Rams. The team did break two more records, clearing the books in the 200-meter backstroke and 1,650-meter freestyle, courtesy of Fuller and Gamble, respectively.
At the end of the day there were just too many other swimmers and too few points, making the Rams leave with fifth place. Although the sky didn’t open and pour out confetti of green and gold, the Rams should be pleased with an effort that surpassed previous performances.
“The records we set, the performances as individuals, the number of kids that came back to the finals and consolation finals far surpassed what we had done in the past couple of years,” Mattos said.
Mattos, CSU’s long-time swimming coach was also honored as the Mountain West’s best coach of the year, an award that he took modestly.
“It was just a real tribute to the work ethic that these young ladies have exhibited all season long. We’re really pleased,” Mattos said.
The season is over for the Rams swimming and diving team, with the exception of Breann Fuller, who will be preparing to compete in the 100-meter and 200-meter backstroke events at the NCAA championships March 19-21.
Sports writer Keith Robertson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.