Senior Alicia Caldwell finished third in the 500-yard freestyle with one of the best times in school history, and swam the lead leg on the Owls’ winning 400-medley relay, to help pace the Rice swim team on Thursday’s round of action at the annual Hansel Invitational across town at the University of Houston.
After five swimming events and the first of three diving events, Rice holds second place in the team standings with 339.5 points. Meet host Houston owns a commanding lead with 473.5 points. Tulane is third in the 10-meet with 221 points.
Caldwell placed third overall in the 500-free among a starting field of 53 competitors. Her finals time of 4:48.58 is the third-fastest mark in the history of the Rice swim program and led an Owl scoring barrage in the event. True freshman Ellery Parish was right behind Caldwell for fourth in the finals with a 4:48.71 that is the fifth-fastest time by an Owl. Rylee Linhardt was seventh (4:52.38) and Hanna Huston was eighth (4:54.25 in the finals after a season-best 4:51.14 in the morning prelims).
The Owls also piled up the points in the 200-individual medley. The senior duo of Jaecey Parham and Kaitlyn Swinney were fourth and fifth in the event, respectively, with a pair of NCAA Provisional times of 2:01.02 and 2:01.46. A Rice freshman trio of Hannah Sumbera (2:02.89), Brittany Bui (2:03.35) and Nicole Limberg (2:04.11) were 13-14-15 to score for the Blue & Gray in the IM’s consolation final.
Senior Lauren Rhodes finished third among a starting field of 93 competitors in the 50-freestyle (22.91). Marie-Claire Schillinger (23.5) tied for tenth in the consolation final and Kate Nezelek was 13th (23.54).
That same sprint trio, along with Caldwell, combined to finish second in the 200-freestyle relay with a season-best time of 1:31.97. Caldwell, Schillinger, Bui and Rhodes teamed to win the 400-medley relay with a time of 4:39.84, the third-fastest mark in school history.
Rice head coach Seth Huston not only gave credit where it is due, he said there is also still room to improve as the three-day meet begins its second stanza on Friday.
“That was both Alicia’s and Ellery’s lifetime best in that 500-free, and we had a lot good 500s today,” Coach Huston said. “We had some B cuts in the 200-IM and our freshmen had lifetime bests every time they swam. That was good to see. Kaitlyn had a great 100-backstroke split in her IM. I thought Lauren had a really nice anchor leg on the sprint relay, coming from behind and almost wining it for us. It was kind of a mixed bag on our relay splits.
“We’ll have the 400-IM tomorrow, and that could be a pretty big event for us,” coach Huston added. “There’s 100s of the strokes, so our specialty swimmers will be getting-up and going. I’d really like to see us have a better day on Friday and Saturday.”
The Hansel Invitational continues on Friday with prelims starting at 10 am. Event finals are scheduled for 6 pm.