SEWELL, New Jersey, February 20. A new member and a legacy program took over the lead at the BIG EAST Swimming and Diving Championships at Gloucester County Institute of Technology here on Thursday.
Villanova took over first place in the women’s standings after Thursday’s first full day of competition with 334.5 points, ahead of Georgetown’s 302.5. On the men’s side, it’s newcomer Xavier leading the way with 321.5 points, while the Hoyas are in second with 357.5.
It was a great night all around for both programs. The Wildcat women and Musketeer men swept gold in their respective events to help build their leads.
On the women’s side, Villanova started incredibly strong by sweeping the top four places in the 500 free. Erin Merkle took gold in 4:51.45, just ahead of teammate Emily Mayo’s silver medal-winning 4:51.72. Mary Snyder was third (4:54.00) and Colleen Lord fourth (4:57.90). Megan Conrad took eighth in 5:01.21 to give the Wildcats two-thirds of the points available in the A final.
Sarah Jurek and Jessica Randolph of Villanova went 1-3 in the women’s 200 IM in 2:02.65 and 2:04.78, respectively. Seton Hall’s Kelly Kolackovsky won silver in 2:04.19. Kaisla Kollanus finished out the gold sweep for the Wildcat women when she took the 50 free and the title of the BIG EAST’s fastest woman with a winning time of 23.45. Fiona Hardie won silver in 23.56, while Georgetown’s Erica Fabbri and Villanova’s Katrin Heider tied for third with a time of 23.65 to round out the top four in a very competitive race.
Xavier was just as successful on the men’s side. Three Musketeers swept the gold, silver and bronzes in the 500 free, with James Foster winning in 4:30.63. Arthur Smith was second touching the wall in 4:33.62, and Nicholas Strader took third (4:34.27), edging Georgetown’s Evan Grey by 55-hundredths of a second.
Chad Thompson made good on his prelim time in the 200 IM. The morning session’s top qualifer won in 1:50.22, narrowly taking the top position on the podium from teammate Erik Bierna (1:50.60). John Fatigati of Providence clocked a 1:51.33 for third place.
The Musketeers finished the individual portion of the night by going 1-2-3-4 in the men’s 50 free. Luke Johanns won gold in 20.34, edging Rodrigo Suriano (20.79) and Armando Moss (20.89). Michael Gordon finished the Xavier quadruple atop the men’s 50 free times with a 20.92 clocking.
Not much changed in the final relay events of the night. Villanova captured the women’s 200 free relay in 1:33.09, while Georgetown was second in 1:35.15. Xavier was close behind in third with a time of 1:35.47.
Xavier won the men’s 200 free relay in impressive fashion, besting the field by over two seconds. The Musketeers’ time of 1:21.23 eclipsed Seton Hall, which took second in 1:23.52. The Pirates were one-hundredth of a second ahead of third-place Georgetown.
Villanova and Xavier will try to build on Thursday night’s performances in Friday’s prelims, which begin at 10 a.m. The event schedule includes the 400 IM, 100 fly, 200 free, 100 breast and 100 back. The night session starting at 6 p.m. will have the finals of those races plus the 400 medley relays.
Scores Through Thursday
1. Villanova – 334.5
2. Georgetown – 302.5
3. Seton Hall – 202
4. Xavier – 191
5. Providence – 124
6. Butler – 94
1. Xavier – 321.50
2. Georgetown – 257.5
3. Seton Hall – 186.5
4. Villanova – 164.5
5. Providence – 92
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