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Hayon, Dyson make waves at NCAA Championships

Sophomore Ella Dyson swims at a swim meet last year. Dyson and Hayon participated in the NCAA swim championships this past weekend, representing Rice at the competition for the first time since 2006. Courtesy Rice Athletics

By Andersen Pickard     3/26/24 11:35pm

Junior Arielle Hayon and sophomore Ella Dyson represented the Rice swim team at the NCAA Championships in Athens, Ga., this past week from March 20-23. The two swimmers competed in five events.

This year was the first time since 2006 that Rice had multiple competitors qualify for individual events at the NCAA Championships.

Dyson and Hayon both hit the water on Thursday, March 22, as Dyson raced in the 500-yard freestyle and Hayon in the 200-yard individual medley. Over the following two days, Hayon also competed in the 100- and 200-yard butterfly while Dyson rounded out the week in the 1,650-yard freestyle.

The Owls’ best performance came from Hayon, whose time of 52.06 seconds in the 100-yard butterfly placed 34th out of 58 competitors and represented her highest-ever finish at the NCAA Championships. This was her second career appearance at the event.

Dyson also finished the 1,650-yard freestyle with a time of 16:18.01, setting a new personal best in her NCAA Championships debut.

“I was super proud to represent Rice on a national level and was really excited to be racing against teams I haven’t been able to compete against in the regular season,” Dyson said. “I was happy with how I swam. It was a great opportunity for me to practice my race strategy and learn from it for next time.”

Neither Dyson nor Hayon qualified for the finals in any event, but head coach Seth Huston was still proud of the swimmers for representing Rice. 

“What an honor for Ella [Dyson] and Arielle [Hayon] to earn an invite to the NCAA Championships,” Huston said. “They competed well and learned a lot. The best thing moving forward is they can bring that experience back to the team and make others better around them.”

“It was a lot of fun attending with Arielle,” Dyson said. “It was my first time attending so it was really nice going with someone who had been before.” 

With the arrival of a new diving team next season, the Owls will be able to earn both swimming and diving points.

“Year after year, our swimmers have produced championship-caliber results and countless event champions, but the lack of diving points has prevented them from standing at the top of the podium as a team,” athletic director Tommy McClelland previously said in a press release.

Since that announcement, Rice conducted an extensive search for its new diving coach and ultimately settled on Gabi Chereches, hiring him from The Woodlands Diving Academy. Chereches will join swimming head coach Seth Huston in preparation for next season. 

Although the addition of a diving team will go a long way toward improving the Owls’ chances moving forward, Huston and the Owls will have to overcome the loss of seniors Lauren Brantley, Mimi Filkin, Briana Gellineau, Lauren Hurt, Imogen Meers, Elizabeth Myers and Hunter Smith.

In an attempt to weather this storm, the Owls recruited incoming freshmen Ava Casperson, Reese Cole, Jessica Lawton and Ava Portello. Rice’s 2024 competitive schedule is expected to start in October.

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