By: John Sullivan, Rice Athletics (firstname.lastname@example.org)
ATLANTA -- Rice true freshman Marie-Claire Schillinger posted the second-fastest mark in school history to win the Conference USA event title in the 100-yard breaststroke Friday evening on the third day of action at the annual league championships in Atlanta, Ga.
Schillinger had proved to be one of the top performers in the event all year long, so it wasn't too much of a surprise she qualified for the evening's A finals as the No. 2 seed. Where Schillinger may have had her eye on two North Texas swimmers as her primary competition for the event title, the surprise was elsewhere in the field.
Old Dominion freshman Ashley Brem made the A final as the No. 4 seed but blazed to an early lead in Friday night's race. At the midway point Schillinger found herself in third place with a rapidly diminishing margin for error. The Rice rookie from Orinda, Calif., however rallied over the final 50 yards to win the C-USA individual title by just five one-hundredths of a second (1:01.69 to 1:01.74).
This was only year one of two talented freshmen battling head-to-head for the league crown. The 100-breaststroke may be an event to keep an eye on over the next three years, but Rice was happy to pull in some big points for it overall. Owl junior Shelbi Ragsdale was sixth with a steady 1:03.22 and freshman Dani Gordon scored by winning the consolation finals with a 1:04.17.
After three full days (a total of 14 events) Rice has moved up into second place with a total of 430 points. Florida International leads the meet with 663 points while Marshall is third (397 pts). North Texas is fourth (326), followed by Florida Atlantic (269) and Old Dominion (236) to round out the six-team field.
The Owls also had a big day in the 400-IM where sophomore Kaitlyn Swinney finished second with the second-fastest time in the event in school history (4:16.15). Jaecey Parham was fourth (4:22.52) and Hanna Huston was sixth (4:22.83).
Sophomore Alicia Caldwell had a solid showing by placing third in two different events. The Sydney, Australia, native was third with an NCAA Provisional mark in the 100-backstroke (53.98) and third in the 200-free (1:48.81). Caldwell led teammates Shelly Patton (6th, 55.54) and Anniina Ala-Seppälä in the (8th, 1:51.53) in the respective events.
Owls Kiley Beall and Meaghan Wisenbaker both made the championship final of the 100-butterfly. Bell was sixth with a 54.89 and Wisenbaker, who had been out of action for almost the entire year, scored for Rice with a 56.36 after a 55.36 in the morning prelims.
The Rice foursome of Caldwell, Schillinger, Beall and Parham closed out the night by taking second in the 400-medley relay. The group combined to swim a 3:40.35 that is the second-fastest mark in school history.
There is now just one day remaining in the four-day Championship meet. Saturday's events get under way with preliminary swim races beginning at 9:30 am (Central Time) at the Georgia Tech Swim Center, the same facility that hosted the 1996 Olympic events. Evening finals, including springboard diving, are scheduled for 5 pm (CST).