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Swimming falls to Texas A&M

Helen Pu/Thresher

By Joshua Anil     11/12/19 9:47pm

No. 12 Texas A&M University defeated Rice in swimming 158-102 on Saturday at the Owls’ first home dual meet of the year.  The loss was Rice’s first  of the season, dropping the team’s record to 3-1. 

The Owls had a swimmer or relay team place at least second in 10 of the 14 events, and prevented A&M from sweeping the podium in any event. 

According to Rice head coach Seth Huston, Rice fought hard against the Aggies and improved as the day progressed.

“I was pretty happy with how we competed today,” Huston said. “I know what we’ve been doing training-wise, as you could see a lot of our athletes are as tired as they’ve been all year. I felt like we weren’t very sharp in the first event or two, and really, across the board, I feel like we got better and better as the meet went on and they relaxed a little more, focused a little more on our details, racing, turns, and I think we raced really well and had some great swims today.”

Overall, the Aggies won 12 of 14 events. But in the final event of the day, much to the delight of the Rice fans in attendance, the Rice quartet of senior Kate Nezelek, freshman Sini Koivu and sophomores Marta Cano-Minarro and Becca Evans defeated Texas A&M in the 200-yard freestyle relay with the fastest time in Conference USA so far this season. The Owls beat the Aggies by a little less than a second, completing their swim in 1:33.55 compared to Texas A&M’s time of 1:34.44.

According to Huston, the Owls must maintain their focus against top-ranked swimming programs.

“If we want to compete at the highest level, we have to show up here and our girls really have to not be distracted with [their opponents’ ranking], and have their best game plan intact and execute it,” Huston said.

Despite the final results, the Owls had several strong showings. In her first collegiate 200-yard backstroke race, freshman Zoe Spitz won the event with a time of 2:04.95, giving Rice its only other win of the day. Spitz also placed second in the 100-yard backstroke.

Huston said Spitz’s performances stood out during the day’s competition.

“[Spitz] hit her lifetime best time in the [100-yard backstroke] and she rarely swims the [200-yard backstroke],” Huston said. “I know as a freshman that is her first collegiate [200-yard backstroke] and she [ended] up winning.” 

Evans, named C-USA’s Swimmer of the Week on Oct. 23, swam in the 400-yard medley relay and the 50- and 100-yard freestyle races in addition to anchoring the final relay. Evans said her performance during the meet was up-and-down.

“Overall there were many good races; some people had tough races, including myself,” Evans said. “I didn’t have the best day, I made some mistakes, but by the end of the day, that last relay, that’s my favorite thing to do, so that kind of brought me back full circle.” 

Huston said Evans’ attitude enables her to successfully anchor the Owls’ relay team. 

“I think more than anything, [Evans] races for the team, and you always want someone like that anchoring,” Huston said. “And fortunately for us, I think we have a number of people who could fill that spot in any given relay. We have a lot of girls that put the team on their back and they’ll go for it.” 

Several freshman competed in the meet, and many of their advisors and Orientation Week groups were present to support them, equipped with signs and loud cheers. Spitz said she notices the support.

“It actually makes a really big difference,” Spitz said. “It’s really nice when people come out to support [the swim team]. Just being behind the blocks and hearing them cheering, it just means a lot.” 

The Owls next meet is the Phill Hansel Invitational at the University of Houston Recreation Center on Nov. 21.

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