SEWELL, New Jersey, February 23. THE Villanova women and Xavier men entered Saturday’s finals session at the BIG EAST Swimming and Diving Championships as the respective leaders.
Both teams made the leads stick.
The Wildcats claimed their first BIG EAST title since 1996 with 842 points to sit atop the women’s standings.
Xavier, which was competing at its first BIG EAST Championship, won the men’s crown with 924 points.
Kerrie Kolackovsky of Seton Hall and Villanova’s Fiona Hardie shared the Women’s Most Outstanding Swimmer award, while Xavier senior Chad Thompson was voted the Men’s Most Outstanding Swimmer by the head coaches.
Villanova’s Rick Simpson was voted Coach of the Year for the women, while Xavier’s Brent MacDonald was named Men’s Coach of the Year.
The two schools had combined for a stranglehold on the gold medals throughout most of the meet. Georgetown broke through to the top spot on the awards podium on Friday night, and on Saturday a pair of Seton Hall swimmers won races. Kolackovsky took the women’s 200 breast in 2:19.60, and teammate James Logan won the men’s race in 2:04.09. It was Kolackovsky’s second individual gold of the championships. She was the 100 breast winner on Friday night.
Hardie finished the championships with individual golds in the 100 and 200 fly events and was one of several contributors to the Wildcats’ relay successes over the four nights. Her time of 2:00.57 in Saturday’s 200 fly final was more than three seconds better than the field.
Thompson won three individual races for Xavier, sweeping the 200 and 400 IM before adding his title in the 200 back on Saturday night with a winning time of 1:48.32. It was fitting that Thompson finished off Xavier’s emphatic first appearance at the BIG EAST championships by swimming the final leg of the Musketeers’ victorious 400 free relay at the end of the night.
Erin Merkle started off Villanova’s winning ways on Saturday by claiming the title in the women’s 1,650 free in 16:43.02, narrowly edging teammate Emily Mayo (16:43.13). The two switched positions from the psych sheet. Mayo had been the top qualifier this season and the only women’s swimmer to have broken 17 minutes in the mile before Saturday.
James Foster of Xavier, also the BIG EAST gold medalist in the men’s 500 free, added to his collection with a winning 15:39.24 in the men’s mile.
The Musketeers also swept the 200 back, with Carolyn Stewart completing the feat with Thompson after winning in 2:00.21. She also took the 100 back win on Friday.
Katrin Heider clocked a 50.36 to win the women’s 100 free, gaining more valuable points for Villanova’s title quest. She was also the women’s 200 free winner on Friday night and swam the second leg of her team’s winning 400 free relay effort later in Saturday’s session.
Benjamin Smith finished off Villanova’s overall success in the 200 fly when he won the men’s A final in 1:50.37.
Thought it didn’t pick up any race victories Saturday night, Georgetown earned second place in both standings. Head coach Jamie Holder’s Hoyas finished with 690 points in the women’s standings and 715 in the men’s. In the latter, they were more than 200 points ahead of third-place Seton Hall. Georgetown is still seeking its first BIG EAST Swimming and Diving title in either gender.
Next up on the schedule are the ECAC Swimming and Diving Championships at Lejeune Hall on the campus of the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., Friday-Sunday, Feb. 28-March 2. The only BIG EAST team to declare for the meet as of Thursday is the Villanova women for swimming only.
Women’s Most Outstanding Swimmer Kerrie Kolackovsky, Seton Hall; Fiona Hardie, Villanova
Men’s Most Outstanding Swimmer Chad Thompson, Xavier
Women’s Coach of the Year Rick Simpson, Villanova
Men’s Coach of the Year Brent MacDonald, Xavier
1. Villanova – 842
2. Georgetown – 690
3. Xavier – 574
4. Seton Hall – 530
5. Providence – 310
6. Butler – 230
1. Xavier – 924
2. Georgetown – 715
3. Seton Hall – 492
4. Villanova – 438
5. Providence – 298
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