Jessica Shepard finished first in each of her four events, helping CSU to a 152-148 victory over Northern Arizona.
Nov. 9, 2013
FORT COLLINS, Colo. -- Colorado State won the final two events Saturday to come from behind and beat Northern Arizona, 152-148, at Moby Pool. It was CSU's closest win since 2001.
Moby Pool was electrified with anxious fans as the tight win was decided during the final event of the day. The win evens CSU's record at 2-2, and marked NAU's first loss of the season.
"It was a fantastic meet from start to finish," Head Coach Christopher Woodard said. "They didn't get down. If they went 1-2-3 they got really excited but they didn't get cocky, and when NAU went 1-2-3 in the 500 Free they didn't give up. That's exactly what I want to see out of my team. They're keeping their heads straight when they're wining and not folding when they're losing."
The Rams started with confidence, opening the meet with a big win in the 200 Medley Relay. Jessica Shepard (56.89) and Yana Garvey (57.56) helped continue the Rams' lead, taking first and second, respectively in the 100 Backstroke. Katie Polich claimed her first-ever individual win in the 50 Freestyle at 24.51. But NAU had its own star performances, and at the break the meet was tied at 75-75.
On boards, Ariana Milone had another solid day with second-place finishes in the 1- and 3-meter springboard events. Both scores qualified her for the NCAA competition in March. In the 3-meter event, Milone set her highest score of the season at 304.58.
CSU made a resounding statement and regained the lead when it came back after the break and went 1-2-3 in the 100 Freestyle with freshman Karin Roh (53.20) leading the sweep. Tess Simpson (53.72) and Polich (53.92) came in a tight second and third. Next, Shepard (2:04.88) and Garvey (2:05.19) again went 1-2 in the 200 Backstroke. The Lumberjacks then took back control, however, sweeping the 500 Freestyle.
Heading into the final two events, the Rams knew they had to win both events to take the meet. Shepard (2:07.09) stepped up to the 200 IM and cut down her season best by more than 2 seconds, beating out NAU's Rachel Palmer by 3 seconds. In the same event, Alexandra Jacobs (2:11.24) came back from fifth to close the team's gap even more with her third-place finish.
Trailing by five points entering the final event, CSU needed to take first, in addition to either second or third. The 400 Freestyle Relay cinched the Colorado State win, as the relay team of Roh, Polich, Teagan Griffith and Simpson edged out first with their fastest time of the season at 3:31.11, just milliseconds ahead of NAU.
"It was a whole team effort. There were honestly way too many heroes to talk about them all," Woodard said. "Jess had a phenomenal meet. Across the board she was able to not only get out early, but come back strong in all her events. Tess showed veteran leadership across the board in all her events, including that last leg of the final relay. Jacobs, in the 200 IM, came back from fifth to third; that really put us in a position where we could put the meet away."
The Rams will carry the momentum from this win into the Las Vegas Invitational, their next and greatest challenge of the season so far. The three-day invite (Nov. 21-23) will give the young team its closest preparation of the season for what to expect at the Mountain West Championships (Feb. 19-22). The diving team will compete the same weekend in Columbia, Mo.
"Hopefully this win will give them a shot in the arm," Woodard said. "I think they saw at CMU that they could come out early in the season and swim well at altitude, but dual meet wins have been few and far between. Having this win against a very tough opponent coming down to the end, I think that gets them charged up and excited about racing. I expect Las Vegas is going to be a top-to-bottom great haul for us."
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