Feb. 23, 2013
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Rice's Erin Flaningan and Casey Clark both won individual events, with Clark blazing to a new Conference USA and school record in the 200-butterfly, to lead the Owl swimmers to the program's second C-USA league title in three years Saturday night across town at the University of Houston Rec Center Natatorium.
The Owls were hungry to claim the 2013 C-USA Championship and made good on a promise to prove the program's first league title back 2011 wasn't a one-time fluke. Saturday's sensational swims capped-off a rugged four-day meet where the Blue & Gray won a total of six event championships, including five individual victories and one in a relay race. Now wrapping-up his eleventh season at the helm of the program, Rice head coach Seth Huston was named the C-USA Swimming Coach of the Year for the third time in the past four seasons.
The Owls finished the 2013 C-USA meet, the last before league membership changes take effect in 2014, with 739 points. Crosstown rival Houston finished second with 694.5 points while defending champion SMU was third with 664.5. East Carolina was fourth (605 points), followed by Tulane (373) and Marshall (255).
Rice began the day just a half-point out of first place in the team standings but came up big in the morning prelims by sending a total of ten competitors to evening finals. The 1,650-yard freestyle was a final by time where Flanigan started the scoring barrage. The Austin, Tex., native led a 1-2 Owl finish in the mile with Quincy Christian, fresh-off her own C-USA individual title in the 400-individual medley. Flanigan avenged the second place finish she posted in the mile as a freshman with a time of 16:29.02 that is the second-fastest mark in school history.
Freshman Taylor Armstrong then tallied the fifth-fastest Rice time in the 200-backstroke to take fifth in the conference. Michelle Gean was seventh with a season-best 2:01.30.
Clark led a big Rice scoring push in the 100-freestyle where Owls claimed four of the event's top eight spots. The Spring, Tex., standout was third with a 49.78 while spots 6-7-8 when to Karina Wlostowska (50.57), Chelsea Fong (50.90) and Cora McKenzie (51.02).
Freshman Shelbi Ragsdale was the team's top finisher in the 200-breaststroke with a 2:17.65 that is the fourth-fastest in school history. Madison Livingston was seventh with a 2:18.01, but the team quietly picked-up some critical scoring in the consolation finals. Rachel Moody won the consolation finals while Lilly Marrow and Kylee Talwar were tenth and eleventh, respectively.
By the end of the 200-breaststroke Rice had built a modest lead of 27.5 points over the Cougars. Clark and Flanigan were then the only two Owls in the meet's last individual race, the 200-butterly, but the sophomore duo effectively sewed up the championship before closing out the night with the final relay. All Clark did was motor past the field with a time of 1:57.35, breaking the C-USA and Rice school record in the process. Flanigan's 2:00.54 to take fourth, after having won the mile earlier in the day and overcoming an illness that kept her on the sidelines for a full day of the meet, was impressive as well.
Rice locked up the title and didn't even need to enter the 400-freestyke relay, but in keeping with the competitive theme the team had all week the foursome of Clark, Flanigan, Konicke and Wlostowska went out and broke the school record with a second place time of 3:21.03.