San Antonio, Texas - Brie Marhenke won the 50 freestyle herself before leading San Jose State University’s 200 freestyle relay to a conference title in a school record time to close the second night’s festivities at the 2008 Western Athletic Conference Swimming & Diving Championship at the Palo Alto College Natatorium.
The senior co-captain out of Carmichael, Calif., sprinted 22.65, bettering her season best of 22.88 from earlier in the day, to make her top seed hold up in the 50. Marhenke had become San Jose State’s first individual WAC swim champion when she won the 50 on the second night of the 2006 conference meet. She redshirted last season, and returned to defend her crown. The time gives Marhenke her third NCAA B’ cut in the 50 this season, but still falls just .03 seconds short of an NCAA A’ cut, or NCAA automatic qualifier.
For the last event of the night, Marhenke led off the 200 freestyle relay in 22.70 before giving way to junior Lauren Mar, freshman Meghan McCurley and junior anchor Tarolyn Robertson. The foursome led virtually from start to finish, timing a school-record 1:33.76 to better the previous mark of 1:34.00 from the 2006 WAC meet, also a conference champion. Marhenke and Mar were a part of that relay as well.
It was a first WAC Championship relay for McCurley, who like Marhenke, hails from the Sacramento area. The native of Fair Oaks, Calif., swam for the same summer league team as Marhenke growing up.
For Robertson, it was her second critical anchor run on a 200 free relay this season. Back on December 8, she expertly held off the opposition to help clinch a first-ever dual victory on the road at Pacific as the Spartans won by just one point, 131-130. All four Spartans earn gold medals and first-team All-WAC honors. Nevada finished second in a time of 1:33.90.
Joining Marhenke in the championship final of the 50 free was Mar, who placed fifth in 23.97 for second-team All-WAC recognition. She had swam a season-best 23.76 in morning prelims.
A pair of true freshmen, Julia Koch and Kirsten Trammell, also took part in championship finals on Thursday night, earning second-team All-WAC distinction in the 500 free and 200 individual medley, respectively. Koch timed 5:02.77 for sixth place in the 500, bettering her lifetime best of 5:05.97 from the morning. Koch shaved a total of 8.07 seconds off her previous best on the day, and now ranks sixth all-time at San Jose State. Trammell went 2:07.91 for fourth in the 200 IM.
In her final 500 freestyle race of her four-year San Jose State career, Amanda Carr produced an inspired and gutty performance, timing a lifetime-best 5:02.60 to win a thrilling consolation final for ninth place overall to get the night started. The race was close throughout the early portion, with Carr mostly just alongside or slightly ahead of Hawai’i swimmer Amanda McTeague in the lane right next to her, but the native of Riverside, Calif., pulled away late and won handily. McTeague wound up third in the heat in 5:04.21, behind San Diego’s Sarah Gleason (5:04.05).
“When it came down to it, it didn’t matter that I didn’t break five minutes,” said Carr about a goal she had been pursuing and narrowly missed Thursday night. “It was just so great to have my whole team there, and win my heat, and get a best time. I couldn’t ask for a better way to finish my 500 career.”
Freshman Caitlin Macky won the consolation final of the 200 IM in 2:07.65 for ninth place, with junior teammate Beste Erener swimming 2:10.60 for 14th. Sophomore Erin Garcia swam a best time of 2:10.72 to finish second in the bonus consolation final and 18th overall, just .14 seconds behind Northern Arizona’s TJ Williams.
McCurley (24.25) and Robertson (24.37) were fifth and seventh in the consolation final of the 50 freestyle and 13th and 15th overall, respectively, with McCurley’s time her best after sprinting 24.28 in prelims.
Freshman Spartan diver Jo Thibodaux made her WAC Championship debut during the afternoon portion, placing 14th out of 20 divers on the one-meter springboard to pick up three points for her team. The native of Alvin, Texas, scored 202.40 for her six dives.
“Definitely being back home in Texas was the best part, just because all of my family was here to cheer me on,” remarked Thibodaux. “For my first big competition, it was definitely the best part of it, just to have that support. On a lot of these teams (that are here), everyone’s from everywhere else. Everybody had to travel, and so I kind of felt like I had an advantage because I had more support. It really helped with the nerves, too, because this was really my first big competition. I never really dove in a lot of big meets before. It was great to have my family here.
Regarding her performance, Thibodaux went on, “It wasn’t the best. I wish I could have done better. But it’s the first event of the first (WAC) meet. I still have tomorrow, and I’m really excited about (the platform event) Saturday. It should be a lot of fun.”
“Jo did probably a little better than expected today for her first WAC Championship event,” said first-year San Jose State diving coach Brian Tanner. “She did a lot of new dives that we have been working on, and performed them very well. She was maybe just a little disappointed in the place that she took, but overall, it was a very strong showing for a freshman.”
Through seven of 21 total events, the Spartans sit in fourth place with 192 points. Defending champion Nevada still leads with 246 points, followed by Northern Arizona with 236 points and 2006 champion Hawai’i with 200.
“Tonight was tremendous,” said San Jose State head coach Sage Hopkins, recapping the day. “Mandy Carr did an amazing job of firing the team up, going a lifetime best and winning the consolation final. It really gave the team a surge of adrenaline. Several of the ladies commented that they had tears in their eyes at the end of her swim. It was just a tremendous performance. Julia Koch did an amazing job of staying composed under a very pressure-packed situation for a freshman. To have her first individual swim in the 500 freestyle, then step right into a championship final at the WAC Championship, and to improve her time twice, dropping eight seconds on the day and moving all the way up to sixth place, was impressive. Fourth through sixth was a tight race and she battled hard and did a great job.
“The 50 freestyle swims were exceptional. Brie had a great swim and certainly, our 50 freestylers showed that San Jose State is known as a great sprinting program, as evidenced by our top four sprinters coming together and winning a WAC title in a school-record performance.”
Action continues on Friday, February 22, with preliminaries beginning at 9:00 a.m. PST and finals in a total of seven more events starting at 4:30 p.m. PST.
San Jose State at 2008 WAC Championship
February 20-23, 2008
Team Scores (Through 7 of 21 events):
1. Nevada 246
2. Northern Arizona 236
3. Hawai’i 200
4. San Jose State 192
5. New Mexico State 171
6. Boise State 98
7. Idaho 94
8. University of San Diego 91
Results (Winners and Spartan student-athletes):
500 Freestyle: 1. Emma Berry, UH, 4:54.71; 6. Julia Koch, SJSU, 5:02.77; 9. Amanda Carr, SJSU, 5:02.60.
200 Individual Medley: 1. Margaret Doolittle, NEV, 2:01.08; 4. Kirsten Trammell, SJSU, 2:07.91; 9. Caitlin Macky, SJSU, 2:07.65; 14. Beste Erener, SJSU, 2:10.60; 18. Erin Garcia, SJSU, 2:10.72.
50 Freestyle: 1. Brie Marhenke, SJSU, 22.65; 5. Lauren Mar, SJSU, 23.97; 13. Meghan McCurley, SJSU, 24.25; 15. Tarolyn Robertson, SJSU, 24.37.
One-Meter Diving: 1. Emma Friesen, UH, 291.35; 14. Jo Thibodaux, SJSU, 202.40.
200 Freestyle Relay: 1. San Jose State (Brie Marhenke, Lauren Mar, Meghan McCurley, Tarolyn Robertson), 1:33.76; 2. Nevada, 1:33.90.