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Swim & Dive Going '73 Belmont on CUSA; Ruele Sets Meet Record; Track Stuff

 

With two days left in the Conference USA Swimming & Diving meet, FIU's threatening to turn it into one day for competition, one day for coronation.

A meet record by freshman Naomi Ruele in the 50 freestyle. Another blowout relay win giving FIU the natural hat trick in this meet's relays so far. Somewhere in the great beyond, Secretariat's turning to Man o' War with "You watching this, big black? Dag..."

FIU's 339 points puts them 117 up on second place Marshall and 136 up on third place Rice. Or, talking different math language, FIU has compiled 52.7 percent more points than its closest competitor. Without some serious closing by Rice or Marshall on Friday's third day, what they call in golf Moving Day, FIU can take Saturday as a long parade lap to its second consecutive coronation as queens of the Conference USA pool.

The Thursday rampage started with an FIU quinella, sophomore Kyna Pereira (4:45.62) and freshman Ilari Manzella (4:48.22), in the 500 free with sophomore Skye Carey (4:53.88) getting fifth after being eighth in the prelims. Rice answered by dominating the 200 individual medley, led by Jaecey Parham's 2:00.25. But while Rice took first, fourth, sixth and seventh, the fifth and eighth by FIU seniors Becky Wilde (2:02.80) and Jessica Piper (2:03.71) as well as the 13th by senior Valeri Inghels (2:05.31) ahead of Rice's Carly Pratt kept the destruction from being Hurricane Andrew-on-Countrywalk.

"Becky Wilde, Jessica Piper and Val Inghels are going an exceptional job of showing leadership right now, as far as showing how we want things done, setting the culture," Horner said. "Becky Wilde's performance in the 200 IM was a personal best in her senior year.  A lot of times, swimmers get in that senior stretch, see the end coming and let up."

Still, Rice took a 12-point lead on FIU.

Briefly. Very briefly. Like only long enough for the 50 free finals, a podium sweep for FIU. Ruele's 22.23 broke the Conference USA record of 22.33 she had shared with SMU's Isabella Arcila since the morning prelims. Sophomore Letizia Bertelli and junior Jenny Deist came in with times good enough for NCAA B consideration, 22.82 and 22.88. Dead heating for fifth were junior Jenny Alfani and freshman Mari Lauridsen in 23.02. Ally Mayhew chipped in a 10th (23.35) to more than outweigh Rice's single point from 16th place Shelly Patton.

"We knew we have a good group of sprinters," Horner said. "We thought it was possible to put six in the top eight, but that's tough because other teams have good swimmers and you also start knocking out your own people. We were hoping for four. We thought that was an event we could deliver a big blow."

FIU sophomore Rebecca Quesnel (307.3) and junior Lily Kaufmann (288.2) came in second and third behind Marshall's Megan Wolons (316.7) in the 3-meter diving. Sophomore Laura Coronado (259.70) and twin sister Natalia Coronado (217.70) brought home sixth and 11th place points to make the event an overall win for FIU over Marshall (Rice doesn't dive. Apparently, this year, the Texas Owlwomen don't sprint, either.)

That domination of the 50 free made what happened in the 200 free relay as predictable as Hialeah corruption. Ruele, Bertelli, Alfani and Deist won by 3.75 seconds over Marshall in 1:30.70, beating the school record of 1:31.72 set at the 2015 CUSA meet by Alfani, Bertelli, Karin Tomeckova and Deist.

Just as in modern football, it's about creating big plays for yourself and limiting the big plays by the other side, swim and track meets can be about landing big shots as FIU did in the 50 free and turning the competition's big shots into glancing blows, as FIU did to Rice in the 200 IM.

I asked Horner what Friday's equivalent of Thursday's 200 IM would be. He picked the 400 IM, which would have Manzella, Wilde and Chase Harris. He thinks FIU's next big shot could be in the 100 butterfly and the next relay, the 400 Medley Relay, could be the toughest relay fight with Rice, Marshall and North Texas all contenders.

INDOOR TRACK & FIELD

How close did junior Alton Eliphar come to winning an individual title in the men's 60 meters at the CUSA Indoor Track & Field Championships Thursday? Ready? Set? Blink!

You took too long.

Eliphar finished a mere one hundredth of a second -- .01 of a second, that is -- behind Louisiana Tech's Jermey Hicks, 6.70 to 6.71, in the 60. That second, Luka Mustafic's second in the shot put (55 feet, 11 3/4 inches or 17.06 meters) and Chris Sullivan's third in the heptathlon accounted for 22 of the FIU men's 26 points. Sullivan won the 1000 meters in the heptathlon on the way to 4,856 points. 

A pair of thirds highlighted the women's effort. Senior Cam'ree Jackson's 7.49 got her 60 meters down the track in third and freshman Clarissa Cutliff's 5-7 in the high jump did the same.

 

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