Oct. 6, 2012
HOUSTON - Sophomore Erin Flanigan swept both distance races, and Rice won six events overall, but the University of Kansas claimed a 166-132 win over the Owl swimmers in the season-opening dual meet for both teams Saturday afternoon at the Rice Aquatics Center Competition Pool
Flanigan pulled away over the final portion of the rugged 1,000-yard freestyle to win the event with a time of 10:13.69, the fastest mark by any Owl ever recorded at the team's home pool. The standout from Austin, who represented Rice in the United States Olympic Trials over the summer, then came back with her second victory of the afternoon in the 500-free with a steady 5:01.09. She was also close to a third win in the 200-butterfly (2:04.42), but was out-touched a the wall by a narrow two one-hundredths of a second by the Jayhawks' Deanna Marks.
Rice head coach Seth Huston, now in his 11th season at the helm of the Rice swim program, liked what he saw from Flanigan and a host of Owls up and down the roster. If not for the fantastic fall weather to hold an outdoor swim meet, the head coach might have thought the team's event-times were from a meet much later in the year and not the season-opener.
"I was really pleased with today," coach Huston said. "We got out of the gate with a great medley relay (a 1:45.73 that was the fastest the Owls have swam at home in the Aquatics Center), and we kept getting a lot of good marks for most of the meet. I would say that today we were as fast as we've ever been in early October, so this was an awesome start.
"Erin was a work-horse today," coach Huston added. "She won the 1,000-free just swimming her race. She came-on really strong in the back half and swam really smart. She pulled-off the same feat in the 500, which was her final event of the day. Erin swam her race and with 100-yards to go she took-off and pulled away from the field. It was unfortunate she just got out-touched in the 200-fly or she would have had a three-win day."
The Owls continued to register some sound and solid times. Sophomore Casey Clark broke the Aquatics Center facility record to win the 100-butterfly with a time of 55.83. Sophomore Madison Livingston posted the fastest Rice time at the Owls' three-year old swim facility with a second place in the 400-individual medley (4:27.89) and also a career-best 2:19.79 in the 200-breaststroke. Junior Lilly Marrow picked right up where she left-off last year, recording a 1:05.00 for a second place in the 100-breaststroke. Junior Karina Wlostowska won the 50-freestyle with a 23.97 that was closer to a late-season time rather than a mark from opening day.
In fact a total of four Owls went under 25 seconds in the 50-freestyle on Saturday. Mix in freshman Cora McKenzie's victory in the 100-free (51.59) and there were plenty of good omens for the 4x50 sprint relay scheduled as the final event of the meet. With some more sprinting firepower added to the lineup from Wlostowska and McKenzie, along with veterans Casey Clark and Chelsea Fong, the Blue & Gray delivered a win in the 200-free relay with a Rice facility-best 1:35.41.
"What I think was a big bonus for us today, and could be all season, is Karina," coach Huston said. "She has been training really well and we have a lot of confidence to put her on the anchor - like we did on medley relay, or the lead leg - like we did on the sprint relay. She swam really fast all day and did a great job.
"We had several really nice swims from out freshman," Huston added. "I think Cora definitely stands out. In the 200-freestyle she went out and took the lead early, had it a while and then faded just a little bit right at the very end. It was still a really nice swim. She then came back in the 100, took the lead right off the start and led the whole way to win the race for us. For this part of the season it was really a fast time for her or any Rice Owl."
The swim team's next meet is the program's home invitational on Oct. 26-27. The two-day, multi-team meet features TCU, Incarnate Word and the University of Houston joining the Owls at the Rice Aquatics Center. The full results from the Kansas dual meet are provided at the above link.