The University of Nevada swimming and diving team opened day one of the Mountain West Championships with strong performances, receiving a title from freshman diver Sharae Zheng and a school record, NCAA ‘A” cut time in the 800-yard freestyle relay. The Wolf Pack amassed 128 points Wednesday to jump out to an early lead after the first day of action at the Texas A&M Natatorium.
The opening day of the meet consisted of three finals, as Nevada tallied three top-four finishes on the 1-meter springboard, placed runner-up in the 800-yard freestyle relay and placed fourth in the 200-yard medley relay.
Nevada leads the field with 128 points, leading second-place Boise State (91) by 38 points. San Diego State (86), San Jose State (72) and UNLV (64) round out the top five on the team leaderboard.
“I think the team performed well today,” said head coach Neil Harper. “We had some nerves early, which comes with high expectations. We ended up coming away unscathed and had some really good performances. Ending the day with a school record in the 800 free relay was great for our confidence. We’re looking forward to coming back tomorrow for a full day.”
Diving coach Jian Li You and the Pack dominated the field in the 1-meter dive, sending four divers to the finals before posting three top-four finishes. Nevada tallied 65 total points on the event. Zheng, a freshman from Chengdu, China, won Nevada’s fourth consecutive MW 1-meter title, scoring 334.25 points in the finals to win her first career conference event title. Zheng sat in sixth place after the prelims before surging in the finals with an event average score of 7.69.
Senior Krysta Palmer finished runner-up for Nevada with a score of 331.50 in the finals. In the prelims, Palmer set a new MW Championship meet record in the event with a score of 338.35, which broke her own meet record. Additionally, freshman Toma Shmitova placed fourth with a finals score of 294.20 and freshman Zoe Lei placed sixth with a finals score of 288.70.
“Our diving was amazing with Sharae and Krysta going back and forth after each dive,” said Harper. “I’m proud of all four divers for making top-eight and obviously that’s really good for the team.”
Junior Sita Kusserow, freshman Rebecca Murray, junior Teresa Baerens and freshman Antonia Baerens combined for Nevada’s top 800-yard freestyle relay in program history. The Wolf Pack set a school record with a time of 7:05.98, which marked Nevada’s first NCAA ‘A’ cut time of the season. Nevada and Boise State were neck-and-neck in the event before the Broncos won with a meet record time while the Pack tallied 34 points with a runner-up finish. Nevada’s previous record in the event was 7:09.70, which was set last season.
“We’re really proud that all four of those ladies are going to NCAAs,” said Harper. “We knew we needed four good legs and that’s what we got. It was a really good race. Breaking the school record by about four seconds is a testament to their hard work.”
The Wolf Pack set a season-best time and placed fourth in the 200-yard medley relay with a finals time of 1:40.26, which ranks second in program history. Sophomore Jaeger Turner, junior Arantxa Medina-Alegria, sophomore Emma Payne and Murray led Nevada in the event as the Pack added 30 points with a fourth-place finish.
Thursday’s action will begin at 9 a.m. PT with prelims in the 500 free, 200 IM, 50 free and 3-meter springboard, while finals will begin at 4:30 p.m. Live video, results and highlights are available at the MW Championship meet central page.
2016 Mountain West Championships
Team Leaderboard (Through Wednesday)
1. Nevada, 129
2. Boise State, 91
3. San Diego State, 86
4. San Jose State, 72
5. UNLV, 64
6. Colorado State, 56
7. Wyoming, 51
8. Air Force, 48
9. Fresno State, 38
10. New Mexico, 24