Jan. 28, 2012
Chelsea Fong won two individual events and swam the lead leg on the winning Rice sprint relay to pace the Owl swimmers on the final day of the University of Houston Quad Meet Saturday across town at U.H.'s Rec Center Natatorium (Jan. 28).
The two-day scoring format featured four teams competing in simultaneous dual meets. Rice finished with a 1-2 record in its three dual meets. The Owls defeated Conference USA foe Tulane 201.5 to 140.5., but fell to nationally-ranked LSU (228.5 to 125.5) and to meet host Houston 212-151.
Fong led a series of solid Rice efforts up and down the roster. Though normally a sprinter with a specialty in the 200-freestyle, Fong made the most of her first distance race in more than a full year Saturday in the 500. The sophomore from Cupertino, Calif., built a commanding lead through the first 200-yards and touched-in first with a career-best time of 4:55.81. She led a 1-2 Rice finish in the race as freshman Erin Flanigan placed second with 5:01.73. Senior Alex O'Brien was fifth (5:04.02) and Quincy Christian (5:07.51) was seventh among a field of 18 entries.
Fong then came back later in the meet to win the 100-freestyle over a field of 23 competitors with a time of 51.44. Freshman Marissa Konicke (53.22) and Alison Godbe (53.32) chipped-in a pair of Top 10 finishes in the 100 with a sixth- and eighth place, respectively.
Fong was in-gear, but she still wasn't finished. She closed out the meet in her familiar spot as the lead leg on the Owls' 4x50-freestyle relay. She swam a steady 23.83 off the blocks and a young trio of Casey Clark, Konicke and Rachel Moody closed out a victory with a time of 1:36.08, a narrow tenth-of-a-second over second place power LSU (1:36.18). Rice head coach Seth Huston had made a last-minute change to the lineup by putting Moody on the anchor leg and she responded with a 23.89 split. Overall Huston saw a significant improvement from the Owls' performance on Friday night.
"It was a good finish winning that relay and going out on a good note," Huston said. "Chelsea swam really well. We hadn't entered her in a 500 all year and we knew we wanted to at some point. This was going to be our last chance (before the Conference USA Championships next month). It was her first time going from 200 to a 500, and it was a good swim for her.
"Overall it was a better day (than Friday)," the head coach explained. "The team raised their own expectations and made good on it from event-to-event. That was good to see. I was really happy with our 400-IMs and thought we did some good things in the stroke events that we can build on before conference."
The Owls claimed four of the top seven spots in the 400-individual medley. Senior Shelby Bottoms posted a season-best 4:29.06 to take third while Quincy Christian was fifth (4:32.19), Kylee Talwar sixth (4:33.34) and Madison Livingston seventh (4:33.55).
The Bottoms and Talwar duo also scored big for the team in the 100-breaststroke. Bottoms swam a 1:06.07 for second place while Talwar took fourth with a season-best 1:06.56. The freshmen tandem of Flanigan and Clark were third (2:07.79) and fourth (2:07.98), respectively, in the 200-butterfly. Sophomore Michelle Gean was Rice's top finisher in the 200-backstroke with a fifth-place 2:07.72.
Saturday's Quad closed-out the Owls' dual meet action for the regular season. Up next for the Blue & Gray is the Conference USA Championships where Rice is looking to defend its league title from last season. The C-USA meet is set for Feb. 15-18 at U.H.'s Rec Center Natatorium.
Full results from the meet are available at the above links.