SWIMMING: Lady Tops to take dip in New Mexico

Wes Watt

The Lady Topper swimming and diving team has only one thing on their mind as they gear up for their opening contest Friday in Las Cruces, N.M.

The number four.

The women will be going for their fourth straight Sun Belt Conference championship. Since SBC added women’s swimming in 2000, Western has been its only champion.

After graduating nearly everyone two years ago, the victory at last season’s championship came as a shock for coach Bill Powell. Powell said last year’s young, inexperienced swimmers didn’t win with a whole lot of talent, but with their hearts.

And now those hearts are back with some experience.

“Give me a choice between talent and heart, and I will take the heart every time,” he said of last year’s underclassmen. “They did what it took to win. We got all those kids back plus a little bit of experience. I think we’re going to be pretty tough.”

Sophomore Meredith Mountjoy is coming off a phenomenal first season. As a freshman, Mountjoy won the conference’s most valuable player award and set a new Sun Belt Conference record in the 400-yard individual medley.

Mountjoy said the success of her first season helped motivate her even more in her off-season training. But despite how well she does, it still takes a team effort to win.

“It’s about your team and how many points you get,” Mountjoy said. “If you get third place but your teammates get first and second, you’re happy.”

One event where the team will be looking to rack up points is the breaststroke. The team has all four breaststrokers back from last season, plus a talented freshman.

Junior Lucy Faria might be the strongest returning member of the breaststroke team after she won the conference last season in the 100-yard event and finished second in the 200-yard.

Powell said it is more important to place than to win this event. He prefers balanced scoring instead of top-heavy first place finishes.

“We feel like we will get a lot of the points in the breaststroke,” Powell said. “We feel like we can outscore anybody because of our depth.”

Even with the return of several experienced underclassmen, Powell didn’t forget about recruiting.

Veronick Cullen and Jennifer Johnson lead a pack of 12 freshmen who Powell expects to grab the championship baton when their time comes.

The diving event is a place where the team is the most experienced and the most dominant.

Much like the swimmers, the divers have swept the last three championships.

After former diving coach Charlie Law resigned during the off-season, Powell brought Bob Vincent in to take his first ever collegiate-coaching job.

Vincent has been impressed with the divers’ work ethic and ability.

“They’re easy to work with, they’re fun, they’re just an amazing team,” he said. “I’ve got an easy job.”

One reason Vincent’s job might be easy is because the team has had all three SBC divers of the year, with two of them still on the team.

Junior Trish Nailor and senior tri-captain Marci Kacsir won the award in 2002. Nailor also won the award in 2003.

Kacsir said because of the team’s past success, it has a big target on its back. But because of the attitude and experience, she said she feels strong about the team’s chances of winning its fourth straight SBC Championship.

“It’s going to happen,” Kacsir said. “We have that attitude, we got a lot of spirit especially when it comes to the Sun Belt.”

Reach Wes Watt at [email protected]