Liberty Women, SMU Men Secure Inaugural Atlantic Sun Conference Crowns; Jack Hoagland Stars

Atlantic Sun

Liberty Women, SMU Men Secure Inaugural Atlantic Sun Conference Crowns

The inaugural Atlantic Sun Conference Championships concluded Saturday night, with the Liberty women and Southern Methodist men being crowned champions. The Flames racked up 897.5 points, followed by Queens University of Charlotte (792) in second and Florida Gulf Coast (579.5) in third. On the men’s side, the Mustangs totaled a staggering 1059 points, nearly 500 ahead of second-place Queens (699) and third-place Florida Atlantic University (568).

Perhaps the biggest storyline of the meet lies in the young talent. Several freshmen stood on the podium, secured NCAA-cut times, and broke school/conference records. The next few years of action in the Atlantic Sun Conference will be exciting as the young talent continues to grow.

Women’s Champs Link

Men’s Champs Link


The meet kicked off with the 200 medley relay, which was swam during the preliminary session. For the women, the Queens A team of Maren Patterson, Annika Huber, Madeline Foster, and Ryley Heck claimed the top spot with a time of 1:38.86. Second place went to the Flames in 1:39.55, and third to FGCU in 1:40.84. The SMU men started off their dominant weekend strong, winning the event in 1:25.31, which was more than a second faster than Queens (1:26.41). FAU took third in 1:27.05.

Individual finals began Wednesday night with the 500 freestyle. Queens senior Sophie Lange took first in the event with a time of 4:48.12. FGCU’s Jasmin Kroll was second in 4:50.05. The SMU men took the top-5 places in the 500, led by Jack Hoagland with a time of 4:15.6. Hoagland lowered his own team record in the event, which had previously sat at 4:17.66.

Queens freshman Abigail Zboran won the 200 IM in 1:58.39, a time that is an NCAA “B” cut. Her teammate, Annika Huber, took second in 2:01.24. As for the men, SMU had yet another dominant race, claiming the top three places. Jack Easton finished in 1:44.70, grabbing another gold for the Mustangs.

The top three women’s finishers in the 50 free clocked in under 23 seconds, led by Danielle Melilli of Queens in a blazing 22.07. She was followed by her teammate Ryley Heck (22.69) and UNC Asheville’s Abby Parks (22.78). Matej Dusa picked up the first gold medal for the Queens men, finishing in a time of 19.35. SMU’s Lance Butler took second (19.47) and Queens’ Daniel Meszaros took third (19.73).


Day Two began with the 200 freestyle relay. The Queens women (Danielle Melilli, Ryley Heck, Maren Patterson, and Abigail Zboran) took the gold medal in dominant fashion, clocking in at 1:29.98. This was nearly two seconds faster than second-place FGCU (1:31.65). UNC Asheville earned bronze with a 1:32.22. The men’s relay was extremely close, as the Mustangs (1:17.74) edged Queens (1:17.82) for the win by .06. FAU took third in 1:20.34.

The preliminary session concluded with timed finals of the 400 medley relay. The Queens women (3:36.93) topped Liberty (3:37.10) for the win, dropping over five seconds off of their seed time. FGCU took third in 3:41.71. The SMU men dominated the event, finishing multiple seconds over Queens (3:10.21) in a 3:07.68. Bronze was claimed by FAU in 3:12.82.

Thursday night, it was freshmen fever in the women’s 100 fly, as the top two finishers were both first-year competitors. Liberty’s Kamryn Cannings had a stellar race, claiming the first win for the Flames and setting both the team and conference record in an NCAA “B” cut of 51.26. Queens’ Madeline Foster took second in 53.37. The freshmen successfully made a statement that they are forces to be reckoned with in the conference. Fifth-year Danny Kovac (46.08) and junior Russell Exum (46.67) picked up another 1-2 finish for the SMU men in the event.

Abigail Zboran grabbed her second individual win of the meet in the 400 IM, finishing in a 4:14.36. Not far behind were Liberty’s Grace Isaacs (4:15.82) and Genna Joyce (4:19.48). Jack Hoagland picked up his second individual gold as well, winning the men’s 400 IM in 3:41.19. Hoagland’s finishes in both the 500 free and 400 IM were American Athletic Conference records. SMU junior Cotton Fields dropped over 10 seconds from his preliminary time, finishing in a 3:41.42.

FGCU’s first individual win was claimed by Jasmin Kroll in the 200 free. Another freshman in the conference, Kroll bested the competition by nearly a full second with her time of 1:46.72. Sophie Lange finished second in 1:47.66, and Liberty’s Shelby Kahn made her way onto the podium with a time of 1:47.71 that was good for third place. On the men’s side, the event was exceptionally close with the top-3 finishers all touching in under 1:35. SMU’s Christopher Mykkanen took first in 1:34.01, with his teammate Jack Forrest claiming second in 1:34.45. Daniel Meszaros earned another bronze medal with a time of 1:34.84.


Thursday’s morning session concluded with timed finals of the 800 free relay. The Liberty women (Kamryn Cannings, Sydney Stricklin, Kate Baker, Shelby Kahn) picked up their first relay win in a 7:10.97, just a few tenths short of the school record 7:10.73. Queens was second in 7:12.87, and FGCU third in 7:18.60. The SMU men (Jack Hoagland, Christopher Mykkanen, Jack Forrest, Colin Feehery) dominated the race in a school-record 6:15.90, winning by more than 12 seconds over Queens (6:28.06). Third-place was picked up by FAU (6:32.17).

Atlantic Sun

Courtesy: Atlantic Sun Conference

The Flames made a huge statement in the 100 back on Thursday night, picking up the top-four places. Abbie Shaw took first in 54.27, closely followed by Sydney Stricklin (54.30), Sydney Houtz (54.50), and Malia Francis (54.80). Sophomore Caden Fritz grabbed gold for the Queens men, finishing in 47.15. SMU’s Russell Exum (47.32) and Jack Easton (47.36) were second and third, respectively.

The Queens women fired back at Liberty’s 100 back surge by posting the top-two finishes in the 100 breast. Danielle Melilli grabbed yet another gold (1:00.45) by five hundredths of a second over teammate Annika Huber (1:00.50). FGCU’s Jenna Gwinn finished third in 1:02.12. Perhaps one of the most impressive swims of the evening came from SMU freshman Kristaps Mikelsons, who posted the winning time of 52.69 in the event for the men. He just out-touched SMU senior Lance Butler (52.87) as the two grabbed more points for the Mustangs. Justin Bender stepped onto the podium for the first time for Gardner-Webb University, finishing third in 53.40.

Thursday’s session ended with the 200 fly. Once again, freshmen made a huge impression. Kamryn Cannings grabbed her second individual gold medal of the meet, touching in 1:56.12. Abigail Zboran claimed her third medal of the championship, as her 1:57.38 was good for silver. The two freshmen were over three full seconds ahead of the next best competitor, as UNC Asheville junior Riley Edmundson grabbed third in 2:01.17. For the men, Danny Kovac also grabbed his second individual gold (1:42.02), followed by teammate Cotton Fields (1:42.76) as they secured an additional top-two finish for SMU.


Saturday began with the final relay of the meet, the 400 free relay. The Queens women had yet another impressive relay win, finishing in 3:16.80. Liberty trailed in 3:19.81, followed by FGCU in 3:21.36. The SMU and Queens men battled it out once again, but the race ended with the SMU men on top in 2:50.71. Queens took silver in 2:51.81, and FAU took bronze in 2:57.88.

In the evening, the Flames’ backstroke dominance continued as they secured the top-two spots in the 200. Abbie Shaw led the field with a 1:55.36, and Malia Francis took second with a 1:56.50. Yet another freshman made her way onto the podium as Queens’ Haley Ross (1:57.37) out-touched Liberty’s Sydney Houtz (1:57.44) for bronze. After multiple podium finishes, SMU junior Cotton Fields was finally able to grab an individual gold in the event after finishing in 1:43.79. The Mustangs took the next three spots as well, as Fields was followed by John Culver (1:42.93), Jack Easton (1:43.95), and Russell Exum (1:44.80).

The final event of the meet was the 200 breaststroke, where the Flames once again had a large presence on the podium. While first place was secured by Queens’ Annika Huber (2:12.09), second (Genna Joyce- 2:13.77) and third (Jamyson Robb- 2:14.49) both wore Liberty colors. SMU freshman Kristaps Mikelsons had yet another standout swim in the event, winning by over a half-second in 1:54.90. Bryce Mortimer was the lone swimmer to represent Old Dominion University on the podium as he grabbed silver (1:55.58). Justin Bender (1:56.98) of Gardner-Webb was third.

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