University of West Florida Repeats as NSISC Champions
Argos won four of the final five events Saturday to secure the title
By Brian Henry
CLEVELAND, Miss. – The University of West Florida women’s swimming & diving team won four of the final five events and captured seven medals on Saturday to complete its second-consecutive wire-to-wire victory in the New South Intercollegiate Swim Conference Championships.
UWF also posted one NCAA automatic qualifying time and six consideration times en route to scoring 1,765 points. Runner-up Delta State finished with 1,635, while St. Cloud State had 1,409, Minnesota State, Mankato had 1,169 and Henderson State was fifth with 936.
“When we reflect on it, we’re going to be pleased with our performances and we’re obviously delighted to have won the meet,” UWF head coach Andrew Hancock said. “I’d add ‘relieved’ in there as well. It was a tough one. We faced a lot of adversity this week and the girls had to respond.
“We saved our best day for last fortunately. We had a phenomenal morning and just built on that tonight. We’re very proud of them, proud of the way they fought, proud of the way they represent UWF and we just couldn’t be happier.”
The night didn’t start off as the Argonauts would have liked, seeing their 44-point lead cut down to just nine following the 1650 Freestyle in which Delta State scored six swimmers compared to four for UWF. Sophomores Madeline Pitt and Angie Gallastegui were again on the podium, earning silver and bronze medals, respectively. Pitt was just off her career-best time with a 17:07.09 and Gallastegui out-touched a Delta swimmer in 17:24.61.
“We knew we’d give some points back in the mile, but then we knew that some of those events that were coming were going to be pretty strong,” Hancock added.
For the 36-point total that was eaten away in the 1650, the Argonauts got them all back and then some in the 100 Individual Medley as five swimmers combined to score 103 points – their third-most in an individual event all week – and push the lead to 79 points.
Junior Theresa Michalak secured the record in the inaugural event in 54.80. Ana Christina de Paula was seventh in the championship final, while Sophia Oliva, Amelia Strom and Gabrielle Spangenberg combined for the high event score.
Senior Peggy de Villiers took center stage in the 100 Free, climbing to the top of the podium in the event for the second time in three years with a 51.28 time. Junior Maria de Paula, sophomore Danica Burnett and freshman Lauren Harper all scored in the ‘B’ final.
In the 200 Backstroke, junior Rebecca Halfast set a new UWF record with her silver-medal winning B-cut time of 2:01.09. Freshman Pia Hulley was eighth and sophomore Nicole Machado was fourth in the ‘B’ final.
With the UWF lead still in the mid-70s and two events remaining, the Argonauts needed to create some breathing room before the 400 Free Relay. Paulina Szydlo did just that in the 200 Breaststroke, rewriting the UWF and NSISC record book by smashing her own record with a NCAA ‘A’ cut time of 2:14.67 – the third-fastest in the country.
Ana Christina de Paula scored in sixth place, as Spangenberg and Strom scored in the ‘B’ final to extend the UWF margin to a meet-clinching 120 points.
With the pressure off entering the relay, UWF was able to let it all hang out as the quartet of Halfast, Oliva, de Villiers and Michalak broke their own school and meet mark with a 3:26.29. That ‘B’ cut is now the seventh-fastest nationally.
UWF swept the four individual awards with Hancock and diving coach Barbara Parker repeating as the Coach and Diving Coach of the Year, respectively. Parker has now won the award all three years of UWF’s existence. Michalak was named the Swimmer of the Meet and junior Monica Amaral was named the Diver of the Year for the second-consecutive year.
“I want to congratulate and thank our seniors, Peggy, Paulina and Josie,” Hancock said. “They led by example today, and they’ve led by example all season long.
“I want to thank my coaching staff, I’ve got the best staff in the country. Barb Parker is the best diving coach in the country, and Lauren, Kevin and Anna, the work that they did to get these girls ready every single day – my hat’s off to them. When you have great people around you, they make you look pretty good and this one’s theirs as much as anyone else’s.”
The title is the second conference swimming crown for the Argonauts and brings the athletic department’s total of conference championships won to 85.
UWF will now wait to see how many student-athletes will be invited to the NCAA Championships. The NCAA may announce the list of invited participants as early as the end of the upcoming week.
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