SWIMMING: Freshmen jump into competition

Wes Watt

When coach Bill Powell brought in 12 freshmen recruits to the women’s swimming and diving team this season, he knew they would have a major impact.

They didn’t waste any time.

The freshmen took first place in eight events last weekend at the Sun Belt Challenge in Las Cruces, N.M., as the team swept its first meet of the season to come home with an 8-0 record.

Western dominated Friday’s contest by taking first place in eight out of 13 events. And freshmen won half of those.

On Saturday, freshmen took all four of the team’s first place finishes to help the Toppers win every match by an average of 102.62 points for the weekend.

Freshmen Samantha Sawzak, Jennifer Johnson, and Audrey Barnard took two first-place finishes, while Megan Rames grabbed one. Sawzak also tied for first in the 50-yard freestyle.

Johnson was one example of their performances as she had an outstanding debut, finishing first in the 200-yard butterfly and runner-up in the 200-yard free, Friday. She came back to win the 200-yard free on Saturday.

“It’s amazing,” Johnson said of the freshman class. “We’ve been working hard and it showed. We came in, we worked together and we had a lot of fun doing it.”

Powell said the weekend gave him a good measuring stick to look at when preparing for the SBC championship and he said he likes the way the team measures up.

“This weekend stamped us as the team to beat,” Powell said.

Powell said since the great performance on Friday gave them such a big lead, it gave him a chance to move some personnel around Saturday in the 400-yard medley relay.

The movement paid off and Western took first and second, which propelled the strong finish.

With the freshmen performing so well, it’s easy to overlook some of the other accomplishments Western had last weekend.

Senior diver Marci Kacsir won the 3-meter diving event on Friday and sophomore swimmer Meredith Mountjoy finished second in the individual medley both days behind Barnard.

The event Powell said would give them the most points all season is the breaststroke event. With four veterans returning this season, the breaststrokers placed second, third and fourth in the event which cushioned Friday’s lead.

On Saturday, Western placed second, fourth and fifth to help the Toppers stay on top.

“That was what we were looking for,” Powell said. “You go to conference and get two, three, four, it’s better than getting first.”

Reach Wes Watt at [email protected]