SWIMING: Lady Tops win fourth straight SBC Championship

Wes Watt

Any expectations that Western’s women’s swimming and diving team would blunder in its quest to win its fourth straight Sun Belt Conference Championship were put to rest early on Thursday.

Western went into the championships with all seven first-place votes in the Sun Belt coaches poll. Having won the last three championships by more than 173 points, there might have been incentive for a letdown.

But after just one day, Western led the field of seven by 104 points, leaving any hopes for an upset anchored deep at the bottom of the pool.

“That was huge to come out and dominate the first day,” coach Bill Powell said. “The spirit that they had from the first day to the last never wavered.”

That spirit propelled Western to not only the most points scored in Sun Belt championship history, but the largest margin of victory as well. The 968 points scored was enough to crush a second place Denver team by 368 points.

The win further demonstrated the superiority of Western’s women’s team in the Sun Belt. They have won every SBC Championship since the conference added swimming in 2000.

With his team performing so well so early, Powell said his only worry was keeping his team focused. But that worry melted away as his team continued to get better every day.

With the championship outcome virtually decided the first day, Western could almost coast the other two days and still win.

But Western wasn’t finished.

With the team up big and worn out from three days of swimming, Western’s 400 yard freestyle relay team pulled off the biggest surprise of the meet for coach Powell.

The relay team of freshmen Megan Rames, Audrey Barnard, Jennifer Johnson and sophomore Rachel Buncher set a pool record and took the team’s only first place event of Day 3 with a time of 3 minutes 30:55 seconds.

“This was the last relay and even though we were all tired, we stayed pumped up and ended with a bang,” Buncher said.

“We were out of gas today in our last relay and managed to have one of our best times,” Powell said Saturday in a press release. “It was pretty indicative of the whole meet and our spirit.”

But the ability to take first place was insignificant for Powell’s team of aquatic competitors. It was the ability to take the middle places in mass numbers.

“This was a full team effort,” Powell said. “We won only three individual events and everyone stepped up and contributed.”

Reach Wes Watt at [email protected]