Feb. 29, 2008
OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. - Paced by Nora Kennedy and Michelle Price, the Colorado State swimming and diving team remained in fifth place Friday after Day 3 of the Mountain West Swimming and Diving Championships at the Oklahoma City Community College Aquatic Center.
The Rams (237 points) continued to trail the four schools that defeated them in regular-season dual meets: BYU (544), UNLV (423), Wyoming (393.5) and Utah (375). Meanwhile, CSU leads the four schools it beat during the year: New Mexico (192), TCU (173.5), San Diego State (121) and Air Force (97).
Kennedy, a sophomore from Fort Collins High School, turned in an all-conference performance in the 100 Butterfly. Her 55.43-second effort was CSU's fourth-fastest time ever in that event, topped by only Olympic gold medalist Amy Van Dyken (52.07), Rachelle Kula (54.97) and Patty Nash (55.00). However, Kennedy's time was only good enough for seventh at Friday's MWC championships.
"We're turning in good times, fast times," said Head Coach John Mattos. "But they're still not quite good enough to get us in a position to compete with the top teams."
Another Fort Collins product, freshman Michelle Price from Poudre High School, took fifth in the 100 Backstroke (57.41), also earning all-conference accolades.
"We're not getting on the podium," Mattos said, "but we're significantly faster this year than last year."
The Rams in most cases are turning in season and personal bests. They'd be champions if they were competing only against their own past performances, but the Mountain West competition has stiffened significantly in only one year.
"Our kids are turning in times that easily would've gotten them in the Top 3 last year," Mattos said, "but other teams are performing really, really well. It really makes a difference in our kids' ability to get up and go fast.
"When you're not in the thick of the race, you just don't get that extra motivation. If you're just internally motivated, instead of team motivated, we're not where we need to be to vie for a championship.
Mattos admitted his team's youth and inexperience may have something to do with the team's inability to pull out of fifth place, but he refused to use it as an excuse.
"We need to grow up if we're going to compete in near future," he said. "The kids are using this as a stepping stone to get better in future."
On Saturday, the final day of competition, the Rams will compete in the 200 Backstroke, 100 Freestyle, 200 Breaststroke, 200 Butterfly, 1,650 Freestyle, the Platform dive and the 400 Free Relay, in that order. Preliminary competition takes place in the morning, followed by the finals in the afternoon and evening.
"These are really long days," Mattos said, a little after 10 p.m. local time. "We're just getting the kids to bed now, and our first group will head over about 6:30 in the morning. But other teams are doing it, so we have to do it, too."
Price will be in that first group because she'll compete in the day's first race, her top event - the 200 Back.
But the swimmer staring at the most daunting day is probably freshman Maddie Gamble, Price's teammate at Poudre High School. Gamble will join Price in the preliminaries of the 200 Back, then because UNLV changed one of its entries, will also have to swim in the last individual preliminary event, the mile-long 1,650 Freestyle. That means that if Gamble manages to final in the preliminaries of the 200 Back, after concluding the morning with the grueling 1,650, she'll get little rest before battling in the finals of the 200 Back.
"She might have 30 minutes between those two events," Mattos said. "After swimming 66 laps hard, that's going to be a tough task. But I've told her that she's been prepared the whole second half of our season for something like this."