Summer may be over, but the Owls are just getting started in the pool. Rice swimming opened the season Saturday by defeating the University of the Incarnate Word and the University of Houston 370.5-to-208.5-to-83 in the Fall Splash Invitational. The Owls won 15 of the day’s 16 events against UIW and UH, though UH departed after the eight morning events.
Rice seniors Alicia Caldwell, Kaitlyn Swinney and Lauren Rhodes and junior Marie-Claire Schillinger each won two individual events. Sophomore Rylee Linhardt, junior Hanna Huston and freshman Hannah Sumbera added victories in individual events. Rice also won all four relays; two medley relays and two freestyle relays. Head coach Seth Huston said he was happy with the team’s performance in its season opener.
“We swam great, as expected,” Seth Huston said. “We wanted to get out and swim fast and set a high bar to give us something to strive for.”
The most notable performance of the day was Rhodes’ swim in the 50-yard freestyle. She won in a time of 23.31 seconds to set a new pool record for a Rice swimmer. Rhodes said she was thrilled with how well she opened the year.
“I was just excited because I went home for the summer so I haven’t really raced for a while,” Rhodes said. “I was excited to get up there and see what I could do. That was the best in-season [race] I’ve had for several years. It’s a great start for where I am right now.”
Caldwell said she hopes her performance in the first meet can translate to further success as the season rolls on.
“I think this is one of the best season openers I’ve had in terms of racing and times,” Caldwell said. “It’s really exciting and it’s definitely an indicator of how the season’s going to go.”
While only one freshman won an individual event, a team of four Rice freshmen finished second in the freestyle relay before being disqualified for a false start. Freshman Overall, Seth Huston said he was impressed with how well they swam in their first meet.
“A lot of the freshmen had some really nice swims for us for being new to university swimming,” Seth Huston said. “I was pleased. It was a good start.”
The team will have home meets Oct. 20 and 21 against the University of North Texas and Southern Methodist University, respectively. Then, it will head to New Orleans to take on Tulane University, the University of Denver and conference rival Florida International University the following weekend. According to Seth Huston, there is plenty of work to be done before Rice’s next meet.
“We’ll get back to work here,” Seth Huston said. “This week will be a challenging week. We’ll train at a high level and get ready for North Texas and SMU.”
Ultimately, though, the team is focused on one goal: winning the conference championship for the first time since 2014. Caldwell said the team is optimistic about its chances at the conference title this season.
“We have a massive group of freshmen who have really stepped it up and shown that they’re ready to race,” Caldwell said. “Even the girls that have been here since last year have [done the same]. Our goal is to become conference champions.”