Spartans Open WAC Meet With School Records

San Antonio, Texas - San Jose State University shattered the school record by almost three seconds in the 200 medley relay to kick off the 2009 Western Athletic Conference Championship on Wednesday night, February 25. The Spartan women’s swimming and diving team sits in a three-way tie for fourth through two of 21 events. The meet is taking place for the 10th straight year at the neutral-site Palo Alto College Natatorium, and will continue through Saturday, February 28.

Fourth-year senior Lauren Mar, sophomore tri-captain Kirsten Trammell, freshman Heather Denman and sophomore Meghan McCurley raced 1:41.28 to easily eclipse the previous school standard of 1:44.18, which was set at the 2008 WAC Championship, with Mar also swimming the 50-yard lead backstroke leg on that foursome. Her opening split tonight was another school mark, as she went 25.63 seconds to better former teammate Ashley Vrieze’s time of 25.83.

These are the 10th and 11th school records set by Spartan swimmers this season, with Denman and Trammell being involved in seven and four of them, respectively. Trammell swam the breaststroke leg, with Denman the butterfly and McCurley the freestyle anchor.

With the placement, all four Spartans earn silver medals and second-team All-WAC distinction.

Nevada, the two-time defending WAC team champion, held a slight edge at the conclusion of the backstroke leg, through 2008 WAC Freshman of the Year, Jeanette Tour, and held on to edge San Jose State, which placed second after finishing third a year ago. The Wolf Pack’s mark of 1:40.88 fell just .75 seconds shy of matching the WAC Championship record of 1:40.13, set by SMU back in 2003. Tour was followed by 2008 WAC Swimmer of the Year Margaret Doolittle, Marichi Gandionco and JayDee Huppert.

Both Nevada and San Jose State turned in NCAA consideration times, with this year’s standard at 1:41.72, also marking the first Spartan NCAA B’ cut in program history. All four Spartans on the relay turned in lifetime-best personal splits.

The Spartan foursome of freshman Amy Friedhoff, sophomore Julia Koch, junior San Jose native Erin Garcia, and freshman Megan Mills, timed a season-best 7:33.54 for seventh-place in the 800 freestyle relay. It was the second-fastest time in program history, ranking just under a second behind a 7:32.74 mark from the 2000 WAC Championship. San Jose State’s time was almost six seconds faster than its fifth-place mark a year ago of 7:39.40, which was over 10 full seconds better than the 2007 effort. Friedhoff, Garcia and Mills posted lifetime-best relay splits.

Hawai’i defended its 800 free relay gold medal from the past two years, timing an NCAA B’ cut 7:18.76 in a race that was just as fast as the 200 medley relay. UH’s winning time in 2008, by comparison, was 7:28.46. This year, the relays at the WAC meet are broken up into two heats, with the three slowest seeds going first, followed by the six fastest, with the addition of a ninth squad, Fresno State, which re-introduced its program after cutting it in 2004.

Through two events, Nevada leads with 72 points, followed by Hawai’i and Northern Arizona with 64 apiece, and San Jose State, New Mexico State and Boise State at 58 each.

Denman (Brookeville, Md./Sherwood HS), Friedhoff (Federal Way, Wash./Thomas Jefferson HS) and Mills (Redlands, Calif./Redlands HS) made their WAC Championship debuts tonight, with Denman now a first-time WAC medalist and All-WAC performer.

“We were very pleased with how the first day finished up,” remarked fourth-year head coach Sage Hopkins. “This is our weakest day, and our goal was to be within 25-30 points of first-place. We achieved that goal. Now each day, we get stronger, with our two strongest days being Friday and Saturday. We are looking forward to continuing the great swimming. It’s going to be a great meet".

Added Hopkins about the overall speed out of the gate of this year’s WAC Championship, “It’s a very fast meet. The WAC is one of the fastest-improving conferences in the country, and the 800 free relay tonight was especially a very fast event throughout for all the teams.”

The WAC Championship continues on Thursday, February 26, with preliminaries for the 500 freestyle, 200 individual medley and 50 freestyle beginning at 9:00 a.m. PST. Prelims on the one-meter board will begin at 11:00 a.m. PST with a pair of Spartan divers in competition, before evening finals for those four events, plus the 200 freestyle relay, start at 4:30 p.m. PST.

Top San Jose State entrants for the Thursday events include Friedhoff as the top seed in the 500 free, with Koch fourth, Trammell (second) and fellow sophomore Caitlin Macky (fourth) in the 200 IM, and Meghan McCurley and Mar as the top two seeds in the 50 free. Sophomore Jo Thibodaux and freshman Jessica Holden are entered in the one-meter diving event, with Thibodaux back a second time in her home state of Texas as a native of Alvin, and Holden set to make her WAC Championship debut.

San Jose State at 2009 WAC Championship
February 25-28, 2009

Team Scores (Through 2 of 21 events):
1. Nevada 72
2. Hawai’i 64
2. Northern Arizona 64
4. New Mexico State 58
4. San Jose State 58
4. Boise State 58
7. San Diego 50
8. Idaho 48
9. Fresno State 36

200 Medley Relay: 1. Nevada (Jeanette Tour, Margaret Doolittle, Marichi Gandionco, JayDee Huppert), 1:40.88; 2. San Jose State (Lauren Mar, Kirsten Trammell, Heather Denman, Meghan McCurley), 1:41.28; 3. New Mexico State (Stephanie Peacock, Maria Spies, Kelly Conrad, Tessa Bain), 1:41.81; 4. Northern Arizona (Meredith Egloria, Maria Hechanova, Renee Rother, Rachael Foe), 1:44.02; 5. Boise State (Morgan McLain, Emily Irvin, Chelsea Lopus, Stephanie North), 1:44.23; 6. Idaho (Staci Stratton, Elizabeth Jagusch, Anna Humphrey, SiJia Pang), 1:44.51; 7. Hawai’i (Victoria Tan, Brianna DePalezieux, Hanna Yttring, Maura Barrett), 1:44.60; 8. University of San Diego (Kristen Yoon, Laura Pope, Jessica Rodriguez, Tina Levesque), 1:45.72; 9. Fresno State (Heidi Gjoen, Jordan Morillo, Stephanie Hatayama, Dede Torres), 1:47.00.

800 Freestyle Relay: 1. Hawai’i (Elliko Heimbach, Ricarda Schellenberg, Maura Barrett, Emma Berry), 7:18.76; 2. Northern Arizona (Danielle Filipp, Vivian Landeck, Kate Schafer, Claire Ferro), 7:23.90; 3. Nevada (Kim Kabesh, Danielle Maddock, Marichi Gandionco, Courtney Eads), 7:24.25; 4. Boise State (Amber Boucher, Emily Irvin, Chelsea Lopus, Stephanie North), 7:25.15; 5. University of San Diego (Sarah Geerdes, Kristen Yoon, Sarah Gleason, Erin Voyles), 7:26.99; 6. New Mexico State (Brittney Moore, Meghann Percy, Kelly Conrad, Liz Thomson), 7:28.40; 7. San Jose State (Amy Friedhoff, Julia Koch, Erin Garcia, Megan Mills), 7:33.54; 8. Idaho (Amanda Watson, Alyson O’Brien, Cortnee Hanson, Katie Hendricks), 7:39.29; 9. Fresno State (Heidi Gjoen, Dede Torres, Mary Tess Taylor, Jordan Morillo), 7:56.57.