MOSCOW, Idaho, November 11. IN its final home meet of the fall season, University of Idaho swimming and diving combined several outstanding individual performances into one outstanding team result with a 177.5-122.5 win over Northern Arizona on Saturday.
Idaho won 13 of the 16 events, broke two school records and produced a bevy of individual season and career bests in the meet.
“We've never beaten these guys in program history,” Idaho head coach Mark Sowa said after the meet. “They were second in the conference last year and this is a really good team that we were up against. Any time you can match up against a team that is very successful and well-coached, you should feel pretty good about it when you come out on top.
“It's a great day to be a Vandal.”
NAU won two of the first three events, with Kristy Ardavanis in the 3-meter dive and Emma Lowther in the 1000 freestyle, but Idaho roared back to win eight consecutive events. That run started with a dominant 200 free in which sophomore Rachel Millet led a 1-2-3-5 Vandal effort.
Millet won three individual events and anchored the team's winning 400 medley relay. She tallied a 1:52.31 in the 200 free, a 23.77 in the 50 free, and then capped off her day by barely missing a school record in the 200 individual medley at 2:04.17.
“Wins are never easy and certainly, Rachel is a tremendous performer,” Sowa said. “Her 200 individual medley at the end was very impressive. That was a tenth of a second off our school record and that's an event that we've just started to focus on with her and she's very excited to do it.”
Out of many options, the top performance of the meet goes to freshman Jamie Sterbis, who demolished Idaho's 200 butterfly record with a time of 2:02.86, which was five seconds faster than her previous personal best and more than three seconds faster than the previous record of 2:05.94, set last spring by Savannah Bettis.
“I had hoped that I would break the record this weekend, but it was a little unexpected that I would go 2:02,” Sterbis said. “I felt really tired at the very end and I've never felt so fatigued at the end of a race. I knew I had gone out really fast, but I actually thought I had gone slower in the finish.”
Sterbis also claimed the win in the 100 fly and swam a leg of both winning Vandal relays.
“She's been training great and she's a really thoughtful young lady and we're lucky to have her,” Sowa said of Sterbis. “She's really bought into what we're doing here and I'm really excited to see where she can go from here.”
Junior diver Paige Hunt rewrote her own entry in the Vandal record books in the 1-meter dive on Saturday with a winning score of 275.55 that edged her own former record of 274.90 from 2011. Hunt has already qualified for NCAA Zone competition in the event, and said that the performance gives her a personal boost as she moves forward.
“It feels awesome,” Hunt said. “It also really helps boost my self-esteem, because I can see that I'm getting better.”
Sowa also praised the efforts of senior Kelsie Saxe, who came into the meet knowing that her two breaststroke events would be crucial to the team scoring aspect.
“Kelsie Saxe was an absolute stud today,” Sowa said. “Those were two very determined swims and we knew they were going to be two important races today, because we matched up pretty evenly and Kelsie just came out on top on both of them.”
Saxe won the 100 breast at 1:05.38, then followed up with a win in the 200 breast at 2:23.34. The Vandals also got individual wins from junior Megan Venlos in the 100 freestyle (52.35), junior Sammi Mischkot in the 200 backstroke and freshman Janelle Stacy in the 100 backstroke.
Idaho's 400 medley relay quartet of Stacy, Saxe, Sterbis and Millet kicked off the meet's swimming events with a win in 3:52.81, then Venlos, Stacy, Sterbis and freshman Sami Hendricks capped it off with a first-place time of 1:37.29 in the 200 freestyle relay.
Caitlin Wright was NAU's third individual winner of the day as she took home the 500 freestyle victory in 5:11.32.
Saxe, a team captain, said that the positive energy from Saturday's win will help carry the team into next weekend's Houston Invitational and that the key for the Vandals is to continue building off each other's successes.
“Once we get going, we completely feed of each other,” Saxe said. “We are so team-oriented, whether it's on a relay or as individuals, we're all going to show up and it's the best feeling when you know your teammates have your back.”
Next week's meet runs Friday, Nov. 16, through Sunday, Nov. 18 and his hosted by the University of Houston. The Vandal women finish up their fall season on Nov. 30-Dec. 2 at the U.S. Short Course Nationals at Austin, Texas.
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