PAT LONGOBARDI — Sports Writer
The Southern women’s swimming and diving team is getting hot at the right time and proved just how deep they can go.
The Owls won their ninth consecutive Northeast-10 conference championship at Hutchinson Natatorium with 967 points, ahead of second-place Bentley with 670.
The Owls grabbed a big lead in day one and would not relinquish that lead, carrying a 200 plus point lead going into the final day of competition.
“We have a great little team,” head coach Tim Quill said. “To say that they are not the most talented is arguable. We always talk about not winning in one part of the day. It is a demanding competition with preliminaries and finals. You need to be at your best to be at the night session at 9 p.m.”
Amanda Thomas, SCSU junior co-captain, was named the 2012 Northeast-10 Conference Women’s Most Outstanding Swimmer for her performance for the third straight year.
Thomas broke three conference records in the 200-yard butterfly with a time of 2:01.22 by .01 seconds, the 100 butterfly (54.82 seconds) and an NCAA ‘A’ cut mark, and the 200 individual medley (2:03.29). She also swam a leg on the 800 freestyle relay team.
“I think we did really well as a whole,” Thomas said. “We had a lot of season bests. We helped each other out and supporting each other. The first day I did not do as well, but I pulled it back together and I did really well.”
Senior Amanda Burden was named the Northeast-10 Conference Most Outstanding Diver after winning both of her events in the one meter diving event with a score of 413.30 and the three meter diving event for the third time in four years with a 421.12, breaking an 18-year-old pool record.
The Owls were able to get many of their athletes in the top of each event—grabbing more points on to expand on their lead.
“Amanda [Burden] has won diver of the year three out of four years, and odds are she will get her fourth,” Quill said. “She has had injury struggles. We will rest her now to give her the best opportunity in Texas [for nationals]. Sarah [Thompson] has done faster than before.”
Thompson was also the runner-up in the 100 backstroke with a time of 58.48 seconds, and an NCAA ‘B’ cut mark.
Southern’s relay teams also accounted for four victories during the championships.
The 800 freestyle relay team of Thomas, Anna Pleban, Nicole Huerta and Meghan Fay had a time of 7:46.01 and an NCAA ‘B’ cut mark. The 200 yard freestyle relay team of Thomas, Pleban, Nicole Caron and Sarah Thompson set a new conference record with a time of 1:38.11. The 200 medley relay team of Nicole Caron, Shannen Barnard, Kerry Sullivan and Thompson and the 400-yard medley relay team of Pleban, Thomas, Jessica Rickel and Rachel Smolensky also came in first.
The Owls are receiving votes in this month’s CSCAA poll for the third straight month and will compete in the Metropolitan Championships from Feb. 17-19 before some athletes go to the NCAA Championships in Mansfield, Tex. in March.
“I will only be racing one day to help keep my races up,” Thomas said. “It is just looking past Metros and doing what I have to do, and the stuff individually to achieve my goals.”
“She (Thomas) has done a great job training,” Quill said. “You are thinking about a conference championship, and doing well in March. This is the challenging part of it. She was a national champion in the 200 IM and a runner-up. I feel good about her chances in those races.”