MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – The West Virginia University swimming and diving team closed out the 2017 Big 12 Swimming and Diving Championship strong on Saturday, as the men finished second in the conference for the second straight year and the women placed fourth at the Lee and Joe Jamail Texas Swimming Center in Austin, Texas.
The Mountaineers fought hard on Saturday, with a pair of record-breaking performances, by sophomore Emma Harris
in the women’s 200 breaststroke and from junior Alex Obendorf
on men’s platform. WVU won five silver medals and four bronze medals and earned nine NCAA B cut qualifying times on the final day of competition. After the four-day championship, the Mountaineers are heading home with one Big 12 title, 11 silver medals and eight bronze medals.
“It was a very strong week of competition for both teams,” said coach Vic Riggs. “While the women came up just short of third place, I couldn't be more proud of how they fought all year. This women's team hasn't competed at full strength all year, not one meet, and to be in a race for second after two days and third going into the last night is just great. It shows they're desire and determination to win.
“Amelie (Currat) and Luke (Hene) got us off to a great start in the backstroke, followed by a great 100 freestyle by Julia (Nilton) to win the consolation heat. Merwane (El Merini) continues to improve his 100 freestyle with a best time and fourth-place finish.”
The men totaled a score of 870, while Texas took the Big 12 title with 1,081 and TCU finished third with 702. The WVU women placed fourth with 581.5, while the Texas women took the title with 991. Kansas came in second with 683.5, Iowa State was third with 591.5 and TCU finished fifth with 434.5.
Harris holds the school record in the women’s 200 breaststroke for the Mountaineers, with an NCAA B qualifying and career-best time of 2:12.37, on top of winning the silver medal in the event. Harris beat previous record-holder Breanna McCann’s time by 1.08 seconds, set in 2011.
WVU’s second school record of the day came from junior diver Alex Obendorf
on men’s platform, where all six Mountaineer divers advanced. Obendorf scored a 332.70 in the prelims to advance to the finals, where he won bronze with a score of 324.75. Obendorf beat teammate Austin Smith
’s platform record that was set at last year’s Big 12 Championship.
The Mountaineer men notched 2-3-4 finishes in the 1,650 freestyle, with junior James Koval
winning the silver medal and freshman Trayton Saladin
taking the bronze. Koval’s runner-up finish in 15:27.34 gave him an NCAA B qualifying time and third fastest time in Mountaineer history. Saladin’s season-best time of 15:27.34 earned him the bronze. Freshman Brandon Christian
was good for fourth with a career-best time of1:53.97.
“Emma (Skelley) finished her career with a great 1,650 and James, Trayton and Brandon all had best times as well. (Emma) Harris had a great swim for second and broke her school record. Jake and Drew both had best times as well in their 200 breaststroke as well for third and fifth. We finished with a great 200 butterfly by Gabe for fourth, with both Morgan's swimming for third and fifth in the finals.”
Senior Emma Skelley
won silver in the women’s in the 1,650 freestyle, touching the wall in an NCAA B qualifying and career-best time of 16:23.44, the fourth fastest time in school history.
For the men, sophomore Jake Armstrong
won bronze in the 200 breaststroke A final with an NCAA B cut and career-best time of 1:58.00. Junior Drew Riebel
touched the wall in fifth place with an NCAA B qualifying and career-best time of 1:59.39.
Another bronze medal was won by sophomore Morgan Carr
in the women’s 200 butterfly A final, as she touched the wall with an NCAA B qualifying and career-best time of 1:58.80 for the third fastest time in school history. Freshman teammate Morgan Bullock
placed fifth with a time of 2:00.24, the fourth fastest time in WVU history.
For the men, freshman Gabe Swardson
placed fourth in the men’s 200 butterfly A final with an NCAA B-qualifying and career-best time of 1:46.52. Freshman Jack Frazier
finished eighth with a time of 1:49.45.
A pair of top-six finishes led the Mountaineer men in the 100 freestyle. Sophomore Merwane El Merini
placed fourth with an NCAA B qualifying and career-best time of 43.60. El Merini is now the fourth fastest Mountaineer all-time in the event. Sophomore Drew Damich
touched the wall in sixth with a time of 44.78.
In the men’s 200 backstroke, freshman Luke Hene
finished sixth with a time of 1:46.82 and freshman Trayton Saladin
placed seventh in 1:48.53. Saladin advanced to the A finals after a season-best prelim time of 1:46.32.
Junior Amelie Currat
placed fifth in the A final of the women’s 200 backstroke, touching the wall in 1:57.66, an NCAA B qualifying time and the third-fastest in WVU history.
In relay competition, the Mountaineer men won silver in the 400 freestyle relay thanks to a team of El Merini, Damich, freshman Sam Neavil and Saladin, touching the wall in 2:58.23.
The championship concluded with swimming events in the women’s 400 freestyle relay, as a WVU team of freshman Julia Nilton
, Currat, Bullock and Carr finished fourth with a time of 3:22.90.
On platform in the finals, sophomore Madelyn Woods
placed sixth with a score of 191.40 and sophomore Averly Hobbs
finished eighth, scoring 167.65.
“Our divers did another great job on tower today and continue to have a strong showing,” said Riggs.
“These are long and hard meets and the teams did a great job, but I have to acknowledge what a great job (associate head coach) Damion (Dennis), (diving coach) Mike (Grapner), (assistant coach) Liz (Iliff), (assistant coach) Rick (West), Bryce (Bohman) and Chris (Brill) have done this year. Without them we wouldn't be moving in the direction we are and I am so very grateful that they are a part of this Mountaineer team and I think they're one of the best staffs around.”