Redbirds Finish 2nd at MVC's, Breaking Ten School Records
Feb. 18, 2012
CARBONDALE, Ill. - The Illinois State swimming and diving team earned the second-place title with 725 points at the Missouri Valley Conference Championships Saturday, after three days of competition, where the Redbirds broke ten school records. The victory came after ISU edged out Southern Illinois, following a weekend-long back-and-forth battle for second-place.
Illinois State swam past Southern Illinois (705), Evansville (440), and Northern Iowa (298), falling only to Missouri State, who won the MVC Championship title with 977 points.
Illinois State fell four points below SIU before the three-meter dive, where sophomore newcomer Wenting Zhang sealed the second-place finish, and also broke the MVC Championship record in the event (313.15). Also earning the conference title on the one-meter board in Thursday's competition, Zhang was named the 2012 MVC Diver of the Year.
"Wendy put on a great show today, as well as all weekend," head diving coach Phil Hoffmann said. "It has been a joy being able to coach her and watch her succeed in the short amount of time she has been with us."
Hoffmann was awarded the Missouri Valley Conference Diving Coach of the Year honor, after a string of successful performances this weekend, and throughout the 2011-12 season.
"It is quite an honor, especially considering my colleagues in this conference are such strong coaches," Hoffmann said. "Winning Diving Coach of the Year definitely comes from a contribution of all six of the divers this weekend. It really came down to everyone stepping up and doing what we needed to do to score points for the team."
Junior Maureen Doyle and senior Polly Hirt also advanced to the three-meter top-eight finals Saturday night. Doyle scored a 211.80 to place seventh, with Hirt coming in eighth-place with a score of 210.55.
Junior Danielle Schumacher earned the MVC Elite 18 honor after a weekend of successful performances. The honor is awarded based on a combination of academics and MVC championship performances. As well as boasting a 4.0 GPA, Schumacher earned the conference title in the 500-yard freestyle in the first night of competition, coming in Friday night to finish second in the 200-yard freestyle. Schumacher was a member of Friday night's 800-yard freestyle relay team that broke the MVC Championship record in the event.
To end Saturday's competition, Schumacher, along with Erica Halley, Tori Alland and Katherine Nelson finished the championship meet by breaking the ISU school record in the 400-yard freestyle relay (3:26.68), placing first. The relay team also shattered their seed time by over three seconds. Schumacher was a member of the previous 400-yard freestyle relay record-holding team, set in 2011.
The 1650-yard freestyle was the first event of Saturday's finals, giving four Redbirds a chance to score points for ISU. Schumacher came in fourth-place, recording a 17:13.30. Freshman Valerie Jones finished sixth (17:18.15), freshman Cecilia Holmes finished eighth (17:24.50), and senior Michele Stoeppelman placed 12th (17:34.17) to round out ISU's points-scored in the event.
"The 1650-yard freestyle was a solid way for us to start off today's competition," Paska said. "We came into today for the final day of competition, holding our second-place lead over Southern by only a few points. Having four swimmers put up points for the team was a great way to start off."
Senior Jillian Olson earned the top-time for the `birds in the 200-yard backstroke, recording a personal-best time of 2:05.46, to place tenth. The swim marked Olson's last race as a Redbird. Freshman Samantha Schuckles followed with a time of 2:07.74, to place 11th. Schuckles is coming off an ISU school record breaking 50-yard backstroke time (26.53), leading off for the 200-yard medley relay Friday.
Senior Amber Siggins placed 15th in the finals for the event, and recorded a personal-best time in the prelims (2:09.33). Siggins also placed 12th in the 200-yard butterfly (2:09.20), a season-best time as well as tenths off her personal-best record.
"Amber swam in the 200-backstroke and 200-butterfly, which is a tough double to swim without a significant amount of rest," Paska said. "She really showed her strengths in her last competition for ISU, and scored critical points for us to maintain our second-place standing."
Freshman Katherine Nelson led ISU in the 100-yard freestyle finals, earning a personal-best time of 51.66, to place second. Nelson won the conference title in the 50-yard freestyle Thursday, and recorded a personal-best time in the 200-yard freestyle final Friday. Junior Tori Alland followed, knocking off a little over two-seconds to record a personal-best time of 51.91, placing second. Sophomore Erica Halley swam to ninth-place in the event (52.19), a season-best time and tenths off from her personal-best record.
Three Redbirds landed in the 200-yard breaststroke's top-eight, allowing ISU to hold down their second-place standing with a 12-point advantage over Southern Illinois. Leading the way was sophomore April Livingston with a time of 2:22.04, to place fourth. Arica Woolbright came after, to place sixth (2:23.32), recording a personal-best time for the junior. Senior Lauren Pojman finished eighth (2:26.36).
Another notable performance in the 200-yard breaststroke came from freshman Valerie Jones, who tied Pojman in the prelims for eighth place with a season-best time (2:26.36), to come up 15th at the finals. Junior Morgan Buechele also scored points, placing 12th (2:25.32), and earning a season-best time in the prelims (2:25.37).
The 200-yard butterfly gave Southern the second-place standing by only four points, which ISU quickly gained back in the following diving event. Juniors Jeanette Nolte and Sarah Rendek shined in the 200-yard butterfly event, placing in the top-eight at finals. Nolte shattered her previous personal-best time during prelims (2:04.18), swimming a 2:04.83 at finals, to place third. Rendek placed seventh (2:08.49).
At the finish of the 2012 Missouri Valley Conference Championship, eight members of the ISU swimming and diving team were named as First-Team All-Conference. The honor is given to athletes who finished in first, second or third places in individual events, or were part of a first-place relay team. The honors included Tori Alland, Cecilia Holmes, Valerie Jones, Katherine Nelson, Danielle Schumacher, Wenting Zhang, Jeanette Nolte and Erica Halley.
Second-team All Conference honors were awarded to Morgan Buechele, Maureen Doyle, April Livingston, Sarah Rendek, Samantha Schuckles, Brittany Tazzioli, Arica Woolbright, Lauren Pojman and Polly Hirt.
"The whole weekend was a terrific way to culminate the 2011-2012 season," Paska said. "Breaking ten school records as well as multiple personal and season best performances made for an outstanding championship meet for us. It was a great weekend for every one of our student-athletes, and I am extremely proud of the entire team."
After breaking ten ISU pool records, as well as season and personal-best performances, Illinois State ends the 2011-12 season in 2nd-place at the Missouri Valley Conference Championships. Redbird divers Wenting Zhang and senior Brittany Tazzioli will extend their season for one last meet, diving at the NCAA Diving Regional March 9-10 in Bloomington, Ind.
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