SAN ANTONIO, Texas, March 1. THE UNLV men won their first conference title as members of the Western Athletic Conference, while the Northern Arizona women erased the memory of a seven-point second-place finish last year as both schools were crowned first-time WAC champions Saturday night.
The final session of the meet opened in exciting fashion, as Cal State Bakersfield’s Mitchell Huxhold put on a clinic in the men’s 1650 free. Huxhold, who won the 500 free on day two, led from start to finish and destroyed the WAC record by 23 seconds with a 14:47.18. Drew Whiting of Air Force had set the previous best of 15:10.31 back in 1991. Huxhold’s time also knocked about 34 seconds off his seed time coming into the meet, and cleared the NCAA ‘A’ cut by .01. Air Force’s Andrew Faciszewski out-touched UNLV’s Matt Roe for second, 15:15.35 to 15:15.38.
Northern Arizona, who has led the women’s meet since day one, made a statement in the women’s mile with a sweep of the top three places. Teammates Kendall Brown (16:33.27), Emma Lowther (16:40.64) and Caitlin Wright (16:42.87) were the class of the field, sweeping the podium spots and picking up huge points for NAU to put the women’s title all but out of reach.
An exciting race went down in the men’s 200 back, between 100 back winner Henrique Machado of UNLV, 400 IM runner-up Iegor Lytvenok of Grand Canyon and the top qualifier from prelims, Jayce Calhoon of Wyoming. Calhoon just missed the WAC record in prelims, and all three swimmers were gunning for it in finals. Machado held the lead through the 150, but Lytvenok chased him down with a 25.87 final split to take the win and the record with a 1:43.48. That topped the previous record of 1:44.13, set by BYU’s Arunas Savickas in 1998. Machado also broke the old mark with a 1:43.68 for second, while Calhoon would up third in 1:44.48.
Grand Canyon picked up its second consecutive victory after another tight race in the women’s 200 back. Freshman Iryna Glavnyk trailed New Mexico State’s Terrin Seaver by less than a tenth at the 150 mark, but had just enough left to get her hand on the wall first in 1:57.46. Seaver touched right behind in 1:57.57, while teammate Tricia Kiss out-touched three other swimmers to take third in 1:59.15.
Another WAC record nearly went down in the men’s 100 free in a nail-biter finish. UNLV’s Tom Paco-Pedroni was only .02 off of Lars Frolander’s 1997 conference and meet record, touching in 42.70. That’s only .16 off the NCAA ‘A’ cut in the event, and should be fast enough for a ticket to NCAAs in a few weeks. The battle for second was just as close, as 200 free champ Adam Kalms of Wyoming got to the wall next in 43.05, just .02 in front of UNLV’s Samuel Lameynardie (43.07).
Idaho’s Rachel Millet, winner of the 200 IM on night one, earned her second individual win of the meet with a speedy 50.08 in the women’s 100 free. She finished comfortably ahead of Cal State Bakersfield’s Paola Hernandez, who also cracked 51 with a 50.81. Grand Canyon’s Jovanna Koens rounded out the top three in 51.11.
One night after winning the 100 breast in somewhat of an upset, North Dakota junior Austin Smith made it a sweep by smashing the WAC conference record in the men’s 200 breast by .55 with a 1:56.15. Byron Shefchik of BYU held the previous meet and conference record of 1:56.70, set in 1998. UNLV’s Giacomo Gremizzi hung with Smith the entire way and finished close behind in 1:56.87. Wyoming’s Kyle Scalise out-touched UNLV’s Brandon Meier for third, 1:58.36 to 1:58.46.
Northern Arizona picked up its second 1-2-3 sweep of the night with another impressive showing in the women’s 200 breast. Jordan Burnes led the way in 2:13.35, followed by Urte Kazakeviciute in 2:14.99 and Stirling Smith in 2:16.39.
In the men’s 200 fly, Wyoming sophomore George Eglesfield got the better of his opponents, pulling away over the final 50 to win in 1:45.22, just a hair off the WAC record of 1:45.00. UNLV’s Balint Batka gave Eglesfield all he could handle with a 1:45.70 for second, while Ryan Nelson, also from Wyoming, wound up third in 1:46.26.
Idaho’s Jamie Sterbis made it a sweep of the fly events, winning her second individual event of the weekend with a 1:56.77 in the women’s 200 fly. Sterbis pulled away from Grand Canyon’s Hannah Kastigar over the final 50, as Kastigar touched in 1:57.38. Cal State Bakersfield’s Michaela Paige closed out her meet with a 2:00.51 for third.
Idaho’s Paige Hunt proved to be the best platform diver in the field as she posted 265.55 points to easily outdistance New Mexico State’s Jaymee Porter (233.75) and Northern Arizona’s Chelsea Jackson (230.50).
The UNLV men closed out their successful meet with another relay win, this time in the 400 free relay. Samuel Lameynardie (44.20), Tom Paco-Pedroni (42.01), Giacomo Gremizzi (43.61) and Dillon Virva (43.04) shot down their own conference record from November with a 2:52.86, well under the previous record of 2:55.06. Grand Canyon also came in under the old record with a 2:54.31 for second, while Wyoming rounded out the top three in 2:55.84.
Cal State Bakersfield’s Michaela Paige (50.60), Paola Hernandez (50.16), Lauren Kaufman (50.47) and Kelsey Lange (49.80) took home the final event of the meet with a winning time of 3:21.03 in the women’s 400 free relay. Idaho (3:22.61) and Grand Canyon (3:23.31) wrapped up their meets with second and third place finishes, respectively.
One year after taking second by only seven points, the Northern Arizona women captured the title with 743 points. Idaho finished with 642 points to take second and New Mexico State placed third with 528. Cal State Bakersfield (442), Grand Canyon (438), North Dakota (364), Northern Colorado (349) and Seattle (154) made up the rest of the team standings.
UNLV picked up its first-ever WAC title on the men’s side with 767 points. Wyoming, who challenged the Rebels’ lead throughout the meet, took second with 702 points. Air Force wound up third with 625 points, followed by Grand Canyon (503), North Dakota (390), Cal State Bakersfield (335) and Seattle (193).
Cal State Bakersfield’s Mitchell Huxhold won the men’s WAC Swimmer of the Year award, while Idaho’s Rachel Millet was awarded the women’s WAC Swimmer of the Year award. The UNLV (Jim Reitz) and Northern Arizona (Andy Johnson) head coaches were recognized with WAC Coach of the Year awards.