Behind the strength of eight school records, The University of Toledo swimming and diving team roared to a convincing victory Saturday at the Mid-American Conference Championships, racking up 670.5 points to claim the program’s first conference title.
The Rockets’ performance capped off the best season in the program’s 19-year history. Toledo matched its best regular-season record with an 11-2 finish and went a perfect 7-0 in the MAC. The team’s dual meet efforts earned it a No. 37 ranking in the CSCAA/CollegeSwimming.com national poll.
Toledo entered the day protecting a 67-point lead over Miami and was up 104 points on Ohio. But a terrific performance in the 1650 free and several other top finishes in the 200 back, 100 free, 200 breast and 200 fly built an insurmountable 121.5 point cushion over the RedHawks before the meet’s final two events began, and the Rockets concluded the night by winning the final event, the 400 free relay.
Miami wound up in second (572 points) and Ohio in third (527).
Jacy Dyer started the evening by shattering the MAC’s 1650 free record, leading wire to wire in a finishing time of 16:21.74. She became just the second Rocket (Meghan Reissig, 2008) to win three individual MAC titles in the same championships, and her four career victories matches Reissig’s record as well.
She led a total of six Rockets who scored in the event, as Claire Leichty hit an NCAA “B” time (16:36.13) in placing third, Laura Heckroth (16:45.27) ended in seventh, Louise Smyth (16:56.09) took ninth, Caitlin Cormack (17:02.47) finished 11th and Megan Friedli 14th (17:09.27).
Ashley Cusack followed with a third-place effort in the 200 backstroke, nearly matching the school record with her career-best time of 1:59.26. She was also just .02 away from reaching an NCAA “B” cut.
The Rockets had two swimmers qualify for the championship finals in the 100 freestyle, and a spirited finish saw Carly Harter take third in a school-record time of 50.20. Her mark, an NCAA “B” time, broke Brie Henning’s record of 50.38. Katie White came in eighth with a mark of 50.57, the third-best performance on Toledo’s all-time list.
An entertaining 200 breaststroke also came right down to the finish line, as Laura Lindsay battled with defending champion Kelsey Vehr of Miami. Lindsay wound up in second with a school-record mark of 2:12.46, which was also an NCAA “B” time and a second and a half better than her preliminary time. Finishing in fifth place was Kelsey Atchison with a time of 2:16.43, also an NCAA “B” cut.
Kenzie Bagan came up just short in a thrilling finish to the 200 butterfly, as Ohio’s Rachel Heim edged her for top honors by two-tenths of a second. Still the freshman broke her own school record and set an NCAA “B” time in the process (2:00.49). Laura Benevento recorded an eighth-place finish (2:04.86), while Louise Smyth led the consolation finalists with a time of 2:03.88.
To cap off the meet, the Rockets’ 400 free relay squad cruised to a new school record and NCAA “B” time with a mark of 3:21.77, victorious by three seconds over second-place Buffalo. White, Harter, Atchison and Dyer comprised the team and broke the old record of 3:23.83.
Dyer was named the Co-Swimmer of the Year, and Lars Jorgensen was named the Swimming Coach of the Year for the second time in his career (2006-07). Atchison and Harter joined Dyer on the MAC first team, while Bagan, Lindsay, Cusack, Heckroth, Leichty, White all earned second team recognition.