San Antonio, Texas - Brie Marhenke posted a school-record time of 50.23 to win the 100 freestyle, and the San Jose State University women’s swimming and diving team rallied late to overtake New Mexico State for fourth place, capped by a first-place performance in the 400 free relay to end the meet, and match its best conference finish as the four-day 2008 Western Athletic Conference Championship came to a close at the Palo Alto College Natatorium.
Down by 30 points, 365-335, following the 200 backstroke, with just five events remaining, the Spartans came back to edge out New Mexico State for fourth, 480.5-460.5. Nevada defended its first-ever league championship from a year ago, accumulating 725.5 points.
The Spartan 400 freestyle relay of Marhenke to lead off, followed by freshman Julia Koch and juniors Lauren Mar and Tarolyn Robertson, timed 3:27.03 for first place. San Jose State essentially led from start to finish off Marhenke’s lead split of 50.33 The foursome was edged at the death by Northern Arizona, but the Lumberjacks were disqualified due to an early entry, leaving the Spartans with the gold medals and their first-ever WAC title in the 400 freestyle relay. All four swimmers are first-team All-WAC honorees.
The meet signaled the emotional end of the college swim careers of fourth-year Spartan seniors Amanda Carr, co-captain Nikki Chapman and Jillene Golez, as well as third-year Spartan senior, Sara Riley. Marhenke still hopes to gain an invitation to the 2008 NCAA Championships in Columbus, Ohio, March 20-22. The group was instrumental in helping third-year head coach Sage Hopkins usher in a new era of San Jose State swimming and diving, with back-to-back-to-back best-ever fourth-place WAC placements and numerous conference awards among other firsts. In 2006, Marhenke became the first Spartan representative at the NCAA Championships since 2000, and will leave San Jose State as arguably the best competitor in program history.
Golez played a large role in the late fightback for San Jose State, as she produced a second lifetime-best time on the day in the championship final of the 200 butterfly, placing fifth in 2:05.58. She had previously swam 2:05.85 in the morning. Sophomore teammate Ally Jack also put on a late charge to overtake the lone NMSU representative in the race, Victoria Eickerman, beating her out for seventh in 2:08.72. Jack’s morning prelim was a breakout race for the native of Calgary, Canada, as she shaved almost two seconds off her lifetime best, from 2:09.49 to 2:07.73. Jack garnered second-team All-WAC recognition for the first time.
For Golez in her final race, the fifth-place showing earned her second-team All-WAC honors for the first time as well. Carr, swimming her final race in the grueling 1650 freestyle, timed 17:27.92 for seventh place and second-team All-WAC honors of her own. She had previously picked up second-team All-WAC distinction with a fifth-place finish in the same mile at the 2006 WAC meet.
Other All-WAC honorees for San Jose State on the last night of competition were the freshman tandem of Caitlin Macky and Kirsten Trammell in the 200 breaststroke. Following the theme for the evening, Macky came back late to tie New Mexico State’s Kelly Runestrand for fourth and split the points, each in 2:19.83. Trammell maintained her seed from morning prelims, placing seventh in 2:22.63, with each swimmer picking up second-team certificates.
Junior Katey Nelson’s eighth-place effort in the championship final of the 200 backstroke netted her a second-team All-WAC recognition for the third year in a row. Her time was a season-best 2:05.99. Mar joined Marhenke on the podium following the 100 freestyle as she placed fifth in 51.72 to garner second-team All-WAC honors.
Koch concluded what was a hugely-impressive first WAC Championship for the freshman from San Diego, Calif. She took .25 more seconds off her best-ever 100 freestyle performance, racing 52.89 (53.14 in the morning) to move up one spot from her seed from prelims and finish third in the consolation final and 11th overall in the event.
Jo Thibodaux finished 10th in the platform diving competition. The freshman out of Alvin, Texas, added seven points toward the San Jose State team total, having already contributed five points on the one-meter and three-meter springboards over the previous two days, to give her a total of 12 from her first WAC Championship.
In the bonus consolation final of the 100 free, freshmen Meghan McCurley (53.34) and Daphne Yeung (53.43) were third and fifth respectively for 19th and 21st overall. Sophomore Erin Garcia was seventh in the heat and 23rd overall in the event with a finals time of 53.96. Yeung’s time was identical from the morning, a lifetime best.
Junior Beste Erener turned in a solid performance in the consolation final of the 200 butterfly to also aid in the comeback, making sure she beat New Mexico State’s Nicolin Lillhage. She timed a season-best 2:08.62, just .10 off her best ever, to place third in the heat and 11th overall.
Freshman Ashley Krisman competed in her first WAC Championship mile ahead of Carr’s race, timing 17:56.94 for 22nd.
San Jose State at 2008 WAC Championship
February 20-23, 2008
Final Team Scores (Through 21 of 21 events):
1. Nevada 725.5
2. Northern Arizona 605
3. Hawai’i 574.5
4. San Jose State 480.5
5. New Mexico State 460.5
6. Idaho 305
7. Boise State 243
8. University of San Diego 241
Results (Winners and Spartan student-athletes):
1650 Freestyle: 1. Emma Berry, UH, 16:59.44; 7. Amanda Carr, SJSU, 17:27.92; 22. Ashley Krisman, SJSU, 17:56.94.
200 Backstroke: 1. Jeanette Tour, NEV, 2:02.21; 8. Katey Nelson, SJSU, 2:05.99; 26. Rudie Guerrero, SJSU, 2:12.76; Nikki Chapman, SJSU, 2:15.20.
100 Freestyle: 1. Brie Marhenke, SJSU, 50.23; 5. Lauren Mar, SJSU, 51.72; 11. Julia Koch, SJSU, 52.89; 19. Meghan McCurley, SJSU, 53.34; 21. Daphne Yeung, SJSU, 53.43; 23. Erin Garcia, SJSU, 53.96; 18. Tarolyn Robertson, SJSU, 53.41; 35. Ashley Ladd, SJSU, 55.15; Julie Wynn, SJSU, 54.91; Sara Riley, SJSU, 55.27; Kelly Wilkings, SJSU, 55.77; Amanda Mikaelsson, SJSU, 55.78.
200 Breaststroke: 1. Margaret Doolittle, NEV, 2:13.97; T4. Caitlin Macky, SJSU, 2:19.83; 7. Kirsten Trammell, SJSU, 2:22.63.
200 Butterfly: 1. Kim Kabesh, NEV, 1:58.87; 5. Jillene Golez, SJSU, 2:05.58; 7. Ally Jack, SJSU, 2:08.72; 11. Beste Erener, SJSU, 2:08.62.
Platform Diving: 1. Stephanie De Lima, UH, 265.90; 10. Jo Thibodaux, SJSU, 169.60.
400 Freestyle Relay: 1. San Jose State (Brie Marhenke, Julia Koch, Lauren Mar, Tarolyn Robertson), 3:27.03.