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USD Swimming and Diving to Compete at WAC Championships This Week

Feb. 22, 2005

First-year Western Athletic Conference (WAC) members San Diego will be competing at the 15th-annual WAC Swimming and Diving Championships this week, with competition scheduled to begin Wednesday, February 23 at the Palo Alto College Natatorium in San Antonio. USD, formally a member of the Pacific Collegiate Swimming Conference, is coached by Mike Keeler and paced in the water by two-time NCAA Championship qualifier Ashley Swart (pictured).

"We are excited to be out here and it is special for these athletes to be the first USD team to be making this trip," commented seventh-year Toreros head coach Mike Keeler. "The WAC is a really strong swimming conference, with SMU and Hawaii among the top teams nationally."

As reported by the Western Athletic Conference...

The 15th Western Athletic Conference Swimming and Diving Championship is scheduled to begin Wednesday, February 23 at the Palo Alto College Natatorium in San Antonio. Although there is a new look to this year's field, the Championship promises the same great results. There are seven teams competing this year, including eight-time defending champion, SMU. Also in attendance are WAC members Hawai`i, Nevada, Rice and San Jose State. There are two new affiliate additions to this year's field as well, Northern Arizona and San Diego. The Championship begins Wednesday with two relays, the 200-yard freestyle, followed by the 800-yard freestyle. Each day, swimming preliminaries begin at 11:00 a.m. with the diving preliminaries at 1:00 p.m. The finals begin each night at 6:30 p.m.

Palo Alto College will play host to the championship for the sixth-straight season. The Natatorium was designed as a world-class aquatic facility. The connected swimming warm-up, diving pools, competition-height spring boards, and the diving platforms meet national championship qualifications.

Hawai`i, who tallied a second place finish last year, enjoyed its highest dual meet ranking of the year, coming in No. 18 earlier in the season. It was the first time that both the men and women were ranked in the top 20 during the same time under head coach Mike Anderson. Hawai`i returns conference medalists Dena Quick, Nicole Mackey, Yan Chen, and QiongJie Huang. Mackey was named the Freshman of the Year, while Huang earned Diver of the Year at the 2004 WAC Championships. Wahine freshman Melanie Schlanger is the only female to break a school record this season. She snapped the Hawai`i 100-year freestyle mark with a time of 49.35 seconds. Hawai`i has placed second two of the past four years at the WAC Championships behind SMU. Hawai`i's only league title came in 1986 when they were a member of the Big West Conference.

Nevada enjoyed another successful season, topping 10 dual wins for the fourth time in as many seasons. Alyssa Chin and Devon Owen have each won WAC Athlete of the Week honors this season. The Wolf Pack has finished in the top three each of the last three years at the WAC Championships, finishing second in both 2002 and 2003. Nevada earned a sweep in the Platform Diving competition last season, with Kristin Littell, Jessica Gale and Owen, taking first, second and third, respectivley. Head coach Mike Shrader was named the 2002 WAC Swimming Coach of the Year, while diving coach Jian Li You garnered the honor twice in 2001 and 2004. Shrader also surpassed the 50 dual win plateau earlier this season.

Northern Arizona will be competing at the WAC Championships for the first time after spending six years in the National Independence Conference. The Lumberjacks have placed second at the NIC meet for the past three years. They had seven individual champions last year's as well as the women's Swimming Coach of the Year in head coach Andy Johns, Diving Coach of the Year in Nikki Kelsey-Huffman and Diver of the Year in Blair Buder. All four swimmers and the divers who combined to earn seven titles at last year's NIC meet are still with the team this season. Sophomore Corie Collins broke two individual and one relay pool record at NAU's home meet on January 22 against New Mexico State. For her efforts, Collins was named the WAC Swimming and Diving Athlete of the Week, marking the first time NAU received the honor.

Last season, Rice posted its second-highest team score at the WAC Championship with a total of 551 points to finish fourth overall. In her first season of Division I swimming, freshman Brittany Massengale set a new Rice record in the 1,000-freestyle with a time of 9:59.04. She recorded one of the league's best marks in the mile this season at 16:37.09 to provisionally qualify for the NCAA Championships. Rice's last WAC champion was Mandy Mularz in the 50-freestyle in 2003. Head coach Seth Huston is in his third season at the helm of the Rice program after eight years at Truman State.

San Diego will be competing at the WAC Championship for the first time after competing in the Pacific Collegiate Swimming Conference. The Toreros placed third at last year's PCSC Championship. The Torero program is recognized as one of the elite programs on the West Coast. Over the past four seasons, San Diego has won a pair of PCSC Conference Championships and more recently placed 38th nationally at the 2003 NCAA Championships. Junior Ashley Swart is a two-time NCAA Championship participant. She competed at the NCAA Championships during the 2002 and 2003 seasons. Swart currently ranks in the top 15 in the WAC in the 200, 500 and 1,000 freestyle. Head coach Mike Keeler has been at the helm of the Toreros program for seven seasons. He has earned PCSC Coach of the Year two times.

San Jose State is led by freshmen China Cho and Melissa Logan, who have been a big boost to the team's freestyle success. Cho has the Spartans' top times in the 50, 100 and 200-yard freestyles. Logan is San Jose State's best swimmer in the 500, 1000 and 1,650 freestyles. Alana Lella is San Jose State's school record holder in the 100 and 200 backstrokes. She set the school records at last year's WAC Championships. In the 100 backstroke she finished seventh in the WAC with a time of 57.50, while finishing seventh in the 200 backstroke with a time of 2:04.26. Alli Adams and Alana Lella are the two San Jose State swimmers who were top-eight finishers in events at the 2004 WAC Championships.

SMU is back, not only to defend last season's title, but it's eighth-straight. The Mustangs are in search of their ninth-straight WAC Championship topping Hawai`i in 2004, 911-711. It was the second-closest finish in the for the Mustangs in their eight-year run (Nevada 2002, 828-757). SMU won the 11th Annual SMU Swimming and Diving Classic in October, their fifth overall Classic title and ninth finish in the top-two. The Mustangs recorded a dominating win over nationally ranked then No. 11 Texas A&M in October by a score 181-117. Sophomore Celina Lemmen won two bronze medals (200 long course free, 100 long course free) at the 2004 U.S. Open. Martina Hrdinova, Anja Carman, Flavia Rigamonti, Sara Nordenstam and Tamara Sambrailo all competed in the European Short Course Championships. Rigamonti won gold in the 800 free for Switzerland and Carman had two top-five finishes for Slovenia. At last year's WAC Championship, SMU notched seven individual winners.

Results for the 2005 WAC Championship will be available each night at the conclusion of that evening's events. They will be posted on www.wacsports.com. For more information on WAC Swimming and Diving, records and all-time championship results, visit wacsports.com or contact Joe Menaugh at (303) 799-9221 x207.

SMU and Hawai`i continue to be ranked the CSCAA Poll. SMU fell one spot to No. 7 after suffering losses to Texas and Arizona. Hawai`i moved up three positions to No. 19 after a win over Washington. Both teams finished the 2003-04 season in the top 25 and finished 1-2, respectivley, at the WAC Championship.

The Western Athletic Conference announced that invitations for affiliate membership have been issued to and accepted by the University of San Diego and Northern Arizona to join the conference effective the 2004-05 season. Northern Arizona is a member of the Big Sky Conference, but its swimming and diving team competes in the National Independent Conference (NIC). It has done so since the 1998-99 season. The Lumberjacks have finished outside the top three at the NIC Championships only once, finishing second four times. San Diego is a member of the West Coast Conference, but its swimming and diving team competes in the Pacific Collegiate Swimming Conference (PCSC).

The 2005 NCAA Swimming and Diving Championships will be held, March 13-17 at the Boilermaker Aquatic Center in West Lafayette, Ind. Purdue will serve as the host institution. NCAA Diving Zones will be held March 10-13 at each region's selected site.

New Mexico State and Idaho will join the Western Athletic Conference, beginning July 1, 2005. Both members and their swiming and diving programs will help continue the success the has had. The Aggies are led by head coach John Fedena, while the Vandals head coach is Tom Jager.