The Rice Owls swimming team kicked off 2018 with a splash at the Arizona Wildcats Quad Meet and Grand Canyon University Quad Meet this past weekend. At the University of Arizona’s meet, the Owls defeated New Mexico State University and GCU but lost to No. 12 Arizona by 30 points. Senior Alicia Caldwell won first place in the 100-yard freestyle with a time of 50.96, while senior Kaitlyn Swinney won the 400-yard individual medley with a time of 4:17.86.

Head coach Seth Huston said he was pleased with their performances.

“The team swam great today,” Huston said. “We really wanted to get out and race and we accomplished that.”

At GCU, the Owls won all three of their dual meets, beating New Mexico State, Grand Canyon and California Baptist University. Three different Owls combined to set four facility records, with Swinney swimming a 2:01.44 in the 200-yard backstroke and 2:04.41 in the 200-yard individual medley, Caldwell swimming a 51.01 in the 100-yard freestyle, and sophomore Claire Therien swimming a 10:20.40 in the 1000-yard freestyle.

Huston said this meet was especially grueling.

“It was a long session, a three-hour meet today, and the team is definitely tired,” Huston said. “We gave up a lot of points because we were second to Grand Canyon in both relays, and we had to overcome some diving points [in events in which Rice does not compete], but individually we swam very well.”

Caldwell said she was happy with her performances but still needs to work on her form.

“My turns for most of my races was something I was not pleased about,” Caldwell said. “If I continue to work on [these] in training I know I can drop times when I race at the Conference USA Championships.”

Swinney said she raced well and was impressed with the team’s effort.

“I was very happy with that performance — I have never gone that fast in a training suit before and it felt very strong,” Swinney said. “The team is also looking great. The winter break is normally a rough time, because there are hard practices and 25-degree weather to get through, but we’re looking very strong.”

The team is currently ranked No. 38 in the nation, the best in the conference. Rice is four spots ahead of rival Florida International University, which has won the past three conference championships. The Owls have finished second each time and last won the title in 2014. They will get their chance to exact revenge next month, Feb. 21-24, at the conference championships in Atlanta.

According to Caldwell, Rice is optimistic about winning the C-USA title.

“If we are able to stay healthy and continue to have the same attitude towards our team that we have [had] all year it will definitely be an achievable goal,” Caldwell said.

In their next meet, the Owls will face the University of Houston, Louisiana State University and Tulane University at the University of Houston Quad Meet on Jan. 27.