NEW HAVEN, Connecticut, February 14. THE Central Connecticut swimming and diving team led by 18 points heading into the final day of competition and ended it with a 17 point victory to repeat as Northeast Conference Champions on Saturday at Yale University. Despite losing 11 champions from a year ago, the Blue Devils held off Wagner, St. Francis (PA) and all others to win the 2009 NEC Championship.
CCSU claimed four out of five individual awards from the meet. Head Coach Bill Ball was named NEC Coach of the Year for his team's performance at this weekend's championship meet. "We lost 11 champions from last year. We were short-numbered with only 16 scorers, so for us to pull this off is somewhat of a minor miracle," said Ball after the meet. "Especially with the way we did it, winning 16 of 20 events."
Diving coach Dave Maliar and Mallory Miller captured both the individual diving awards, with Maliar being named NEC Diving Coach of the Year for the second straight year and Miller earning NEC Diver of the Meet in her first year of collegiate competition. She won both the one and three meter diving events this weekend. Alex Czaplicki took home NEC Rookie of the Meet honors for her victories in the 200 IM, the 100 and 200 backstroke as well as being part of the victorious 800 free and 400 medley relays.
Early Saturday morning CCSU got off to a good start in the three meter diving finals. Mallory Miller backed up her one meter performance with another first place finish, scoring 235.10 points. Sam Smolicz helped the Blue Devils dominate the diving portion of the meet with her second silver performance of the meet, recording a score of 207.55 to place second in the three-meter dive. Madison Vestergaard took fourth for CCSU to take a 58 point lead heading into the 6:00 p.m. finals.
To start off the Saturday night portion of the meet, Megan McGorry had everyone on their feet as she was swimming ahead of pace to break the NEC record in the 1650 freestyle. The sophomore shattered the previous record held by CCSU's Kristen Jurzynski last year, touching in at 16:45.96. The mark also gave McGorry the Central Connecticut school record. Lindsay Ciancola took fourth for the Blue Devils, recording a time of 17:58.79, while Brittany Honrath placed 10th, touching in at 18:22.13.
Alex Czaplicki continued the run of CCSU victories as she took gold in the 200 backstroke. The freshman finished in 2:01.85, just .42 off of former Blue Devil Lindsey Snyder's NEC record. Kelly Kreho placed eighth in the event, touching in at 2:14.03.
The third event of the final night was the 100 freestyle. Erin Crowley picked up her third gold performance of the championships and defended her 2008 title, setting a lifetime best of 51.63 seconds. After the meet Crowley said "I'm elated. This wasn't anything we expected with the losses we had this year. To go out on top as a senior truly shows what the sport can give back to you when you put everything you have into it."
Kandra Kane was the only other Blue Devil to score in the 100 free, placing seventh, touching in at a lifetime best 54.32 seconds. Despite Crowley and Kane's performances, Wagner cut into the CCSU lead as they had five Seahawks score in the event. Central led 479 to 461 with three events remaining.
It was a two woman show in the 200 breaststroke with Kristen Malski and Alyssa Carlucci finishing nearly five seconds ahead of the nearest competitor. Malski recorded her first gold of the championships, touching in at a personal best of 2:24.35, while Carlucci also set a new career best, taking second in 2:24.80. Shauna Lynch added a ninth place finish for CCSU, recording a time of 2:37.40. With Wagner only getting points from two swimmers, the Blue Devils increased their lead to 34 heading into the final two events.
In the last individual event of the meet, Heather Vendetta picked up some valuable points in the 200 butterfly. The senior was seeded fifth from the prelims and held on for a third place finish, recording a lifetime best of 2:09.38. Lindsay Ciancola added an 11th place finish, touching in at 2:20.97.
The CCSU 400 free relay team of Carlucci, McGorry, Czaplicki and Crowley finished off the night with a second place finish, touching in at 3:31.98.
The relay capped off the Central Connecticut repeat performance as Northeast Conference Champions as they held off Wagner to win 552-535. St. Francis (PA) placed third and Sacred Heart was fourth with 411 and 222 points, respectively.
Special thanks to Central Connecticut State for contributing this report.