Rice senior Kaitlyn Swinney won the 200-yard individual medley to lead a 1-2 finish with senior teammate Jaecey Parham, highlighting a solid day of scoring for the Rice swim team that took the first day lead at the 2018 CSCAA National Invitational Thursday evening at the United States Naval Academy.
The 19-event, three-day meet (which has picked up the unofficial title of the "Swimming NIT") is restarting in 2018 after a three-year hiatus. The national Division I meet has not been held since the current seniors were freshmen, but it seems as if the Rice swimmers have picked-up right where the previous Owl teams were at their respective NIT experiences - winning the inaugural National Invitational in 2014 before finishing as the runner-up in 2015.
After the first day of action Rice leads the team standings with 143 points. The Owls’ Conference USA rival, league champion Florida International, is in second place with 136 points. The University of Denver scored 114 points for third, and Boise State is fourth with 96 points. A total of 23 Division I schools from across the country scored at the meet Thursday, the biggest Invitational field in the meet’s history.
The Owls swam well for big finishes that produced the big point totals. Similar to last month’s C-USA Championships the senior scoring punch of Parham & Swinney again led the way, although in Thursday’s race it was Swinney-Parham.
Parham, the C-USA silver medalist who entered the event with the second-fastest mark in school history, held almost a one-second lead on her teammate through the first three legs of the medley (50-yards of butterfly, backstroke and breaststroke). Swinney made up the deficit on the final freestyle leg to win the race by one one-hundredth of a second, 1:59.86 to 1:59.87. It may have taken four years, going down to the last freestyle leg of her last 200-IM of her senior year, but Swinney finally went under the 200-IM’s 2-minute mark to win the event title.
It was a similar scoring barrage from the Rice distance specialists in the 500-freestyle. The Owls’ duo of senior Alicia Caldwell (4:45.89) and freshman Ellery Parish (4:46.73) finished third and fourth overall from a starting field of 31 entries. Junior Hanna Huston meanwhile won the 500’s consolation final with a steady 4:51.99.
Lauren Rhodes may have been Rice’s lone entry in the 50-freestyle, but the senior sprinter came up big with a fifth-place finish among a starting field of 72 entries. Rhodes posted a steady time of 22.91 in the 50-free, and she was also the anchor leg of both the 200-free relay and 400-medley relay that registered identical sixth-place finishes Thursday night.
The CSCAA National Invitational is open to all men's and women's Division I programs (and programs reclassifying to Division I), and the programs must be current members of the CSCAA. Individuals and relays may qualify for the meet by winning their respective event(s) at their official collegiate conference championship, or meeting the CSCAA's established qualifying standard(s).
The meet was held for the first time in 2014 in Rockwall, Texas, with Rice winning the inaugural meet title. The Invitational was held again in 2015, where the Owls finished second overall, but was not part of the collegiate schedule in 2016 nor 2017.
The 2018 Invitational features 19 swim events over three days, divided into morning preliminary races and evening finals. The remaining schedule of events, to be held at Lejeune Hall on the campus of the United States Naval Academy, is as follows (all start times listed are Central Time):
Frday, March 9; Morning (9:30 am) & Evening (5 pm) sessions:
400 Individual Medley
200 Medley Relay
800 Freestyle Relay
Saturday, March 10; Morning (9:30 am) & Evening (5 pm) sessions:
100 Individual Medley
400 Freestyle Relay