Nov. 23, 2013Casey Clark won two individual events, broke another one of her own school records for the second time in as many days, and swam on a winning Rice relay that set yet another new school record to lead the Owl swimmers to a convincing meet victory on the final day of competition at the annual U.H. Invitational Saturday night across town at the Cougars' Recreation & Wellness Center Natatorium.
The Owls won three-of-six events Saturday to close out the three-day, six-team meet where it started - in first place. Rice posted a final total of 994 points in the team standings. The University of Idaho was second with 653 points while meet host Houston was third with 640.5. New Mexico State was fourth (587), followed by Conference USA foes Tulane (539.5) and North Texas (399).
Clark swam in all three Rice wins Saturday. After qualifying fifth in the morning prelims of the 100-freestyle, she raced to victory in the championship final with a season-best 49.62. The mark provisionally qualified for the NCAA Championships and was a narrow .15 off her career-best time from a year ago.
Clark then flew to a first place two events later in the 200-butterfly. She only narrowly escaped prelims qualifying seventh for just eight spots, but was all-business in the finals. Clark led every leg of the race to touch in first place with an NCAA provisional time of 1:57.28. The mark also broke her own school record in the event, a similar feat she accomplished the night before when she broke her Rice record in the 100-butterfly with a time of 52.85.
With Clark's latest victory Rice had won 11 of the meet's 17 swim events and there was only one contest left. The fans and participating teams may have been wondering what the Owls were going to do in the meet finale, a 400-freestyle relay. The Blue & Gray did not disappoint. A Rice foursome of Chelsea Fong, Marissa Konicke, Clark and Karina Wlostowska zoomed to a win with an eye-opening new school record time of 3:19.80.
In the history of the Rice swim program no Owl 4x100 relay had been below 3:21.03 (the previous school record set last season). On Saturday this group broke 3:21.03, sped past the 3:20 barrier, and settled at 3:19.80.
Rice's Erin Flanigan (16:42.51), Quincy Christian (16:45.34) and Anniina Ala-Seppala (17:08.68) were a respective second, third, and fourth in the mile. Rachel Moody finished second in the 200-breaststroke with a 2:16.57 that is the best by an Owl in the last 11 years. Taylor Armstrong was third in the 200-backstroke with a 1:59.66 that is the fifth-fastest mark in school history.
Top to bottom it a solid performance by the entire team for three full days swimming, but the Owls still had one final accomplishment to show-off before calling it a night. Another Rice team in that same 400-freestyle relay, an Owl foursome of Shelly Patton, Kim Steinhouse, Taylor Armstrong and Cora McKenzie, finished in second place in the event with a steady 3:23.68. Rice swimmers were on such a roll all weekend that the Owls' "B" team finished ahead of the other team's "A" squads, giving the Blue & Gray a coveted 1-2 finish in a relay event.
A handful of selected Rice swimmers will next compete individually at the Texas Longhorn Invitational on Dec. 5-7. After a break for final exams of the semester, the full Rice team will next be in action on Dec. 20 in a dual meet against nationally-ranked Texas A&M in College Station.
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