SWIMMING: Perfection missed by less than a second

Wes Watt

The 400-yard freestyle relay event is all that separated Western’s women’s swimming and diving team from finishing the season in perfect fashion.

Going into the final event of the final dual meet this season, the Lady Toppers held a slim lead. If they could hold strong, they would finish the season 14-0.

But Southwest Missouri State made sure that didn’t happen.

The women went into the 400-yard freestyle without two of their best swimmers. Despite being undermanned the women only lost their perfect season by .04 of a second in a 125-118 loss.

“We didn’t have much left,” coach Bill Powell said. “We were hoping to have a big enough lead before the freestyle relay.”

The loss prevents the women from completing their first undefeated season since the 1999-2000 season.

Powell said to come that close to finishing the season undefeated and lose by .04 of a second really hurts. But despite the loss, Powell said his team knows they lost to a great SMS team.

Freshman Jennifer Johnson led her team with first-place finishes in the 200-yard freestyle and 200-yard butterfly. ?

The men’s team was looking to end the season on a positive note. After losing two of their last four matches, a win at conference rival SMS would negate the two losses and help send the Toppers into their first Missouri Valley Conference Championship with some confidence.

But the Toppers’ hopes for a victory barely made it into the pool. The Bears handed Western one of its worst losses ever in a 162-81 pounding.

The Bears had 10 first-place finishes, while sophomore Karl Swanson had the lone first-place finish for the Toppers.

“We took 22 men to the meet, only five showed up,” Powell said. “We got behind, and we didn’t rise.”

After going 19-0 dating back to last season, the Toppers have now lost three of their last five meets. Losses to Southern Illinois and SMS have put the men’s team 0-2 in their conference. With a disasterous second half of the season, Powell said he was disappointed in his team’s effort on Saturday. He hopes his team will show up for the MVC Championships later this month.

“We certainly won’t go in overconfident,” Powell said.

Reach Wes Watt at [email protected]