Five Swimmers to Watch at the 2017 Conference USA Championships

30 January 2016: FIU's Naomi Ruele prepares to compete in the 100 yard freestyle as the FIU Golden Panthers faced the University of Miami Hurricanes at the Biscayne Bay Campus Aquatics Center in Miami, Florida.

The Conference USA Swimming and Diving Championships will kick off tonight from Atlanta, Georgia and the Georgia Tech Natatorium and will last through the weekend. Florida International has won the last two championships and looks to be in contention for a third this year in Atlanta. They could get some pressure from Rice, who won it all in 2014.

The meet will also feature Marshall, North Texas, Florida Atlantic and Old Dominion. The meet will be competitive all weekend, but here are five swimmers you will want to keep an eye on as the weekend progresses.

Naomi Ruele, Florida International

Ruele was the only swimmer in the conference to qualify for the NCAA Championships a year ago and she enters this meet as the top seed in the 50 free and 100 back. The sophomore won the 50 a year ago with a 22.23 that currently stands as the conference record; the only conference record set at last year’s championships. She also is the defending champion in the 100 back and the 100 free. Ruele also swam in the Olympics for her native Botswana where she was 47th in the 50 free.

Kyna Pereira, Florida International

The South African junior is the only swimmer that is a top seed in three different events. She sits at the top right now in the 500 free, 200 free and 1650. Pereira is the defending champion in all three of those events. Pereira may also have a chance to chase a few records as she sits two seconds away from Nina Rangelova’s 200 free meet record of 1:44.62. Pereira’s best time this season is 1:46.53. Who knows what will happen, but based on seed times, Pereira looks to be the heavy favorite in all three of her events.

Jaecey Parham, Rice

The junior is the top seed in the 200 IM where she returns as the defending champion. Parham sits in first at 2:00.88, where she won last year in 2:00.25. Parham is also the second seed in the 400 IM this year as she sits just .01 out of 1st with a 4:17.30, behind her teammate Rylee Linhardt. She will also have her hands full in that event with defending champion Caroline Wanner of Marshall sitting fifth on the psych sheet.

Parham is entered in five different events so she will have some decision making to do, as she is seeded higher in the 100 fly (5th) than the 200 back (9th), but it is more likely fans will see her in the 200 back, as the 100 fly is immediately after the 400 IM. Parham will definitely be relied upon if Rice will dethrone Florida International this week.

Marie-Claire Schillinger

The sophomore is the defending champion in both breaststroke events where she won them at 1:01.69 and 2:11.99. She is the top seed in the 200 by nearly four seconds with a 2:11.67, where she will be chasing the 2:09.13 meet record held by SMU’s Rachel Nicol. Schillinger will have her hands full however with freshman Annie Barral of Florida International in the 100. Barral is first with a 1:00.67 and Schillinger is second with a 1:00.94. Both will be chasing the meet record of 1:00.42 held by East Carolina’s Megan Sellers from 2014. Schillinger is also seeded sixth in the 200 IM, where she will be looking for some big team points along with the three other Rice Owls seeded in the top eight.

Letizia Bertelli

The Italian junior is seeded first in the 100 fly (53.91) and the 100 free (49.32) ahead of teammate and the aforementioned Ruele. Bertelli is also the third seed in the 50 (22.66) behind Ruele (22.28) and Marshall freshman Sirena Rowe (22.60). Bertelli will definitely be called upon in the sprint relays to help FIU stay on top. Bertelli was on three of the five relays that the Golden Panthers won last year at the championships and will be a key leg if they are to win a third straight championships.

Florida International is seeded first in all five of the relays for this weekend and the meet will begin with two of them tonight- the 200 medley and the 800 free. It should be an exciting meet in Atlanta, as the meet will start at 4:30 EST. Prelims will start at 10:30 AM EST and finals the rest of the nights will be at 6 PM.

2017 Conference USA Swimming & Diving Championships, Psych Sheet

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