By Patty Barnes
HOUSTON, Texas, Nov. 9. THE 22nd-ranked Rice swim team is set to host the 2001 Continental Airlines Classic, featuring top-15 teams California (7th), Penn
State (10th) and Virginia (12th), this evening at 7 pm at the Rice pool.
The meet, which includes Missouri and Washington, limits each team to 10 swimmers, with a maximum of two from each team per event. Each participant will be allowed to swim in a maximum of three events, of which no more than two can be individual events.
Leading the way for the host Owls is junior Mandy Mularz who currently holds the nation's fastest collegiate mark in the 50 free after posting the
scorching time of 23.19 on Oct. 27. Mularz also currently holds the top time in the Western Athletic Conference in the 100 free with the time of 50.47.
Freshman Lauren Hill has also been a bright spot for the Owls in the early going notching the league's best time in the 200 breast with a 2:18.07 finish on Oct. 26.
One of the highlights of this year's meet is the return of Cal's Natalie Coughlin, the NCAA's 2001 swimmer of the year as just a freshman. A year ago, she set Rice pool records in the 200 free (1:48.59) and the 200 back (1:59.83) on her way to earning All-America honors in three individual events and three relays for the Bears. Cal also features Staciana Stitts, a gold medalist as a member of Team USA's 400-meter medley relay team at the Sydney Olympics.
In all, the Continental Airlines Classic will feature 15 swimmers who earned all-America or honorable mention all-America honors at the 2001 NCAA Championships and three teams that finished in the top 15 at the national meet.