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Massengale paces swimmers to second place

By Tracy Dansker     3/13/08 7:00pm

Since the Conference USA Championships were her last meet as an Owl, Brittany Massengale - the sole healthy senior on the swim team - was anticipating an extra dose of emotion. But as the meet wound down, there was too much excitement surrounding Rice's second-place finish for her to shed a tear for herself. For the second year in a row, Rice finished its dual season with a 10-4 record and took second place behind Southern Methodist University, which scored 926 points to the Owls' 635 and took the title for the third consecutive year."SMU had a better team this year than they did last year . but we definitely separated ourselves from the rest of the conference," head coach Seth Huston said. "We were putting a lot of people in the top eight in the finals right there like SMU always does, but we were doing it more so than in previous years."

Despite losing to the Mustangs, the team performed above and beyond any of its recent finishes. Not only did the Owls get multiple swimmers into the finals in 33 events, but they also managed to break six school records and came very close to matching several others over the four day meet. Fittingly, Massengale led Rice in the distance freestyle events, winning the mile swim with a career-best time of 16:17.73 to take the team's only individual gold of the meet. She also took second-place in the 500-yard freestyle, followed by junior Caitlin Warner and freshmen Karen Gerken and Sarah Korellis, who all finished in the top eight.

By virtue of her top finish, Massengale made the automatic cut for the NCAA Championships for the first time in her collegiate career and will be the only Owl to travel to Columbus, Ohio, from March 20-22 for the national meet.

Junior Carlyann Miller highlighted Rice's finishes in the sprint events, as she reached the finals in the 50, 100 and 200-yard freestyle races. Sophomore Pam Zelnick recorded a sixth-place finish in the 50, and junior Diane Gu took eighth in both the 50 and 100. Freshmen Kait Chura and Ashten Ackerman were also major contributors in the individual medley events.

Rice also showed significant strength in the 100 butterfly, where five Owls - juniors Skylar Craig and Keri Hyde, sophomores Megan Land and Angela Wo and freshman Sally DeWitt - placed in the top sixteen.

Some of the new school records were particularly impressive accomplishments. Craig kept pace with the opposition in the 100 backstroke, finishing fourth with a time of 55.88 seconds and breaking Cory Teague's 55.98 mark from 1997, which was Rice's third-oldest record.

Rice also experienced great success with its relay teams, which were responsible for two new records and just missed two more. The best result of the day was recorded by Wo, Zelnick, Craig and Gu, who soared to first place in the 200 medley relay with a mark of 1:43.29 - an NCAA provisional qualifying time.

After expressing some displeasure with the relay finishes earlier this season, Huston said he was pleased with the achievements.

"If we were going to pick a good time to swim fast in relays, we did right there at conference," he said.

After swimming at the optional All-American Long Course Championships last week, Massengale and Miller both qualified to swim at the Olympic trials this summer. Ackerman, Chura and Hyde, who came very close to qualifying, attended the meet as well.

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