Dec. 17, 2011
SAN ANTONIO - The Rice duo of freshman Erin Flanigan and senior Alex O'Brien finished first and second, respectively, in the 500-yard freestyle to lead a solid effort by the Owl swimmers on the first day of action at the University of Incarnate Word Christmas Invitational Saturday evening in San Antonio, Tex.
After the first day of competition at the three-day six-team meet, Rice is in second place with 511 points behind leader TCU (591 points). Missouri State is in third place with 398.5 points, followed by the University of Utah (335.5 pts.), meet host Incarnate Word (284) and the University of North Texas (76).
The Owls were off the blocks quick in the first two events before coming up big in the 500-freestyle. The foursome of Chelsea Fong, Casey Clark, Marissa Konicke and Karina Wlostowska opened the meet by taking second in the 200-freestyle relay with a season-best time of 1:34.61. Clark then finished second in the 100-butterfly after an eye-opening 54.77 in the morning prelims that was less than half-a-second from breaking the oldest Rice record the ledgers (Corey Teague's 54.30 set 14 years ago in 1997).
Rice then dominated the 500-free. Flanigan and O'Brien finished 1-2 while another three more Owls reached the championship finals to give the Blue & Gray five of the top eight spots. Flanigan touched-in first with a collegiate best 4:51.93, the team's best time at the distance in two years. O'Brien notched a season-best 4:54.36 that was just off her career-best. Even with the top two spots the Owls still weren't finished. Seniors Alison Godbe (5:03.07) and Nicole Delaloye (5:04.54), and junior Danielle Spence (5:05.70) were sixth, seventh and eighth, respectively.
Senior Shelby Bottoms, and sophomores Fong and Michelle Gean were 4-5-6, respectively, in the 200-individual medley after Bottoms' 2:05.76 in the prelims. Junior Kylee Talwar won the event's consolation finals with a season-best 2:06.28, a full six seconds faster than her previous best heading into the weekend.
Fong placed fourth overall among a field of 31 entrants in the 50-freestyle after a career-best 23.49 in the morning prelims. True freshman Marissa Konicke won the 50-free's consolation finals with a Rice-best 24.10.
An Owl foursome of Gean, Rachel Moody, Clark and Fong teamed to take fourth in the 400-medley relay with a season-best 3:50.92. Rice's avalanche of new season-best marks was not lost on head coach Seth Huston.
"We had just a great start to the day," coach Huston said. "This was by far the team's best effort of the year. I think we can carry the momentum over to tomorrow and sustain it all meet long. We're looking forward to Sunday, which has lot more events where we think we can do well and be our best."
The three-day Invitational continues through Monday (Dec. 18) at the Palo Alto College Natatorium in San Antonio. The second day of action begins Sunday with preliminary races at 10 am. Championship finals are set for 5 pm. Sunday's list of events are as follows:
Sunday, Dec. 18
200-yard Medley Relay
400-yard Individual Medley
800-yard Freestyle Relay
UIW Christmas Invitational Meet Team Scores (Saturday - Day 1 of 3)
Missouri State 398.5
Incarnate Word 284
North Texas 76
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