April 28, 2014
HOUSTON - Led by junior Casey Clark as the Rice Swimmer of the Year, Owl head swim coach Seth Huston announced the individual award winners for the 2014 Conference USA Championship team at the program's annual postseason banquet on Monday night (April 28).
For the second time in as many years Clark was the recipient of the Catherine Hannah Award, which has been presented to the program's top swimmer every year since 1979. In 2014 Clark won three C-USA individual championships (the 200-yard freestyle and the 100- and 200-butterfly), and she and set two new school records to help the Owl swimmers win the league's team title for the third time in four years. The Spring, Texas native went on to represent Rice in the NCAA Championships in three events, finishing as high as 32nd in the nation in the 100-butterfly.
Joining Clark on the team's 2014 awards list were senior Lilly Marrow as the winner of the Kathryn E. Scholl True Blue Spirit Award, junior Rachel Moody as the winner of the Natalie Kirchhoff Inspiration Award, junior Faith Hirschi as the Most Improved swimmer, freshman Marita Sailor as the recipient of the Rookie of the Year award, and senior Quincy Christian as the team's Academic Honoree. Three Owls who were named the C-USA Swimmer of the Week a combined total of six times, were also recognized.
Selection for the Scholl True Blue Spirit Award goes beyond excellence in the pool. The award is presented to the Owl who has shown dedication, discipline and leadership, but most importantly consistent hard-work and commitment to the team concept. Marrow proved to be an outstanding senior leader who, a few weeks before, won the program's Iron Owl award from the strength and conditioning staff for her work-ethic in the weight room. At conference she was ninth in the finals of the 100-breastroke (1:03.15) and 15th overall in the 100-butterfly (55.93).
Named after the former Owl swimmer and professional tri-athlete Natalie Kirchhoff, the singular moment of inspiration award went to Rachel Moody for her school record breaking swim in the 100-breaststroke at the University of Houston Invitational just prior to the conference meet. Moody was in fact named the National Swimmer of the Week for that dominating performance, which helped lifted the team to go all-out at the C-USA Championships. She went on to break both school records in the breaststroke this season.
Perhaps the Owls' biggest round of applause the entire night was for their teammate Faith Hirschi as Most Improved swimmer. Hirschi was sidelined from competition for more than six months during one stretch, but battled back to record some of the team's fastest times in the both 100- (56.56) and 200-backstroke (2:00.46).
Marita Sailor capped a solid debut season of swimming at the Division I level by being a big contributor in dual meets and making the consolation finals of two events at the conference meet. The native of Portland, Oregon, was 16th in the 200-backstroke (2:03.70), 20th in the 200-IM (2:04.36) and a steady performer in both butterfly events.
When it comes to achievements in the classroom the Owls are of course second to none. Quincy Christian was named to the All-Academic Team for her 3.81 grade point average while majoring in political science. The Rice trio of Christian, Savanna Golson and Catherine Levins were all named C-USA Academic medalists this season. A total of 21 Rice swimmers were named to the 2014 C-USA Commissioners Academic Honor Roll.
The awards didn't stop there, however. The program's six seniors, Quincy Christian, Chelsea Fong, Michelle Gean, Lilly Marrow, Kim Steinhouse and Karina Wlostowska passed out their version of accolades with the program's annual "Senior Paper Plate Awards." No Owl underclassman was spared from the senior-razz, but a good time was had as the soon-to-be Rice graduates made their good-nature, final parting jabs at their teammates.
After winning the program's third C-USA title in swimming in the last four years the Owls went national. Rice closed out the competitive season by winning the inaugural Collegiate Swim Coaches Association of America (CSCAA) Invitational Meet - which took on the unofficial nickname of the "Swimming NIT." The Blue & Gray stormed to the team title of that event, defeating a host of other schools from around the country. Coach Huston, himself a four-time C-USA Coach of the Year, and assistant coach Amanda Caldwell in turn received gifts from the team members during the festivities.