PULLMAN, Washington, October 25. AT the 2007 Debbie Pipher Memorial Invitational, the meet came down to the final event, the 400 free relay. Although the relay team of Shawna Keller, Michaela Ahlin, Talor Whitaker and Sierra Burton placed second in the event it only gave the Cougars enough points for a third-place finish. This year, the story was much different.
Going into the final event, Washington State led the pack with 367 points, 59 points ahead of second-place Notre Dame Blue, but the quartet of sophomores Rugile Mileisyte, Talor Whitaker, Sierra Burton and freshman Emma Neely wasn't quite satisfied with that as they broke Gibb Pool and Debbie Pipher Memorial records with a final time of 3:28.46. The previous meet record was held by Ohio State's relay team of Maggie O'Brien, Anita Beck, Linda Lund-Kristiansen and Samantha Cheverton set in 2007. Mileisyte, Whitaker, Burton and Neely also erased Washington State's record set in 2002 by Lindsay Henahan, Melissa Hubley, Rachel Dong and Andree-Anne LeRoy.
"That finish was something that meant a lot to that relay," Cougar Head Coach Erica Quam said. "The `B' relay did a great job stepping up and keeping the stream going and making our `A' team get up and push the pace. I think after swimming in this meet last year, we wanted to have our hand on the wall and if anyone was going to get the record, it was going to be us."
With a victory in the 400 free relay, WSU decisively took the Debbie Pipher Memorial Invitational with 393 points, 65 points ahead of the blue team of Notre Dame (328) and 72 points ahead of Notre Dame Gold (321). Fourth-place Ohio scored 314 points while Idaho took fifth (253) and Fresno State finished sixth (188).
"The team came back and did a great job today," Quam said. "We didn't want to relax. We didn't want to let the door open in any way. We wanted to continue to step up and take risks going out with our races. I know the steps that we need to take to be there in February, and that's really what it's about."
Saturday's meet was also highlighted by Michaela Ahlin's meet record-breaking performance in the 200 fly (2:03.62) and Kristin Marceau's fourth-place finish in the 1650 free with a time of 17:54.77.
"Kristin did a good job in the mile. For her to get her best time at the end of the year she needs to work that front half of her mile and she really did that today."
Ahlin's finish in the 200 fly erased Ohio State's Anita Beck's 2007 record finish (2:03.92) in the event. She also defeated Notre Dame's Katie Casey who qualified for the 2008 Olympic Trials in the event.
"That was a great event for Michaela. She went out and controlled the race the way that she wanted to. She focused on swimming it the way that she needs to by having a relaxed first 100 and giving herself a chance to bring it back on the end."
Ahlin also led the meet in individual points contributing 45 toward the Cougars' total while sophomore Rugile Mileisyte's two-day performance earned her Swimmer of the Meet honors.
Next up, the Cougars will travel to Reno, Nev., Saturday, Nov. 1 for a dual meet against the Wolf Pack beginning at 11:30 a.m.
Special thanks to Washington State for contributing this report.