Dec. 3, 2010
PRINCETON, N.J. - Washington State University swimmers won three of the five first-day events at the Big Al Invitational, Friday. The Cougars did not waste any time as 16 members of the WSU squad qualified for the finals session.
"We came out and swam really strong as a team today, both in prelims then again in finals," said WSU head coach Erica Quam. "Historically, we have not been a team that always has a good first day. In the past we have built into the meet and gotten better after we get into things. This team today had a totally different mentality. We had swimmers step up and get in finals for the first time ever and came back to swim as fast or faster tonight."
Senior Talor Whitaker dropped some seconds from her season best in the 200 individual medley to touch the wall first. The Chesterton, Ind., native won with a NCAA "B" consideration time of 2:01.38. Sophomore Shelbi Luchini set a lifetime best in the event by finishing sixth with a time of 2:05.52, moving her to ninth on the Cougar all-time list.
The success continued with Rugile Mileisyte's second-place finish in the 50 freestyle, two tenths of a second behind Princeton's Megan Waters. Though she was unable to notch the victory, the senior co-captain's time of 22.84 seconds was still good enough to earn NCAA "B" consideration. WSU received strong performances from junior Melissa Bogert and sophomore Evelina Bieleckaite who also qualified for the "A" final. Bogert finished fifth and moved to third on the Cougar all-time list with a time of 23.38 seconds. Bieleckaite finished sixth and notched a season-best time of 23.71 seconds.
Friday's distance event, the 500 freestyle, was filled by veteran-rookie combination of Jennifer Dean and Emily Fenster. Dean qualified for the "A" final where she finished eighth with a season-best time of 4:58.74; Fenster took 13th while notching a lifetime best in the event (5:03.06).
The first finals session started and ended on a high note for WSU thanks to the success in the relays. WSU teams notched first and-third-place finishes in the 200 freestyle relay and the 400 medley relay.
The team of Melissa Bogert, Whitaker, Evelina Bieleckaite and Rugile Mileisyte combined for an NCAA "B" consideration time of 1:32.72 on its way to finishing first in the 200 freestyle relay. The time was less than a second off the school record. WSU's second team was close behind at 1:34.92, and finished third.
The 400 medley relay team of Mileisyte, Jessie Craig, Whitaker and Bileckaite also set a season best time (3:46.05) during the first-place swim. Luchini, Marina Ruiz Jimenez, Emma Johansson and Bogert were members of the Cougars' third-place team in the event.
The Cougars will be back in action tomorrow for day two of the three-day meet. The preliminary session is slated to begin at 11 a.m. ET with the finals session to follow at 6 p.m. Live results will be posted at www.collegeswimming.com, click HERE for the link.
"Our focus will be to recover between days and from session to session to keep up this momentum," said Quam. I'm really proud of this group and how far we have come over the last year and excited about what we are going to do tomorrow."