Swimming & Diving sets their sights on NCAAs
The University of New Hampshire women's swimming and diving team broke the all-time league championship record with 877 points to win the 2014 America East Women's swimming and diving title at the Worcester Polytechnic Institute Sports & Recreation Center last Sunday.
UNH's 877 points eclipses its own previous AE championship mark of 858 points, set in 2013.
The Wildcats earn back-to-back America East Championships for the third time in their history and the first time since the 2004-05 and 2005-06 seasons. Overall, New Hampshire is bestowed its sixth conference championship, all under UNH head coach Josh Willman.
With another championship under its belt, UNH moves its sights to get more swimmers and divers to qualify for the NCAA tournament this season.
"Overall I thought we had a very successful meet in the America East Championship," Willman said. "One of our goals was to win the title entering this season, as well as breaking the record for points in the championships which we previously broke last year with 858 points, this year we had 877. We hoped to get over 900, but were pleased with the outcome, and a bunch of the swimmers received great times."
Moving forth, Willman hopes to get more swimmers to compete in the NCAAs.
"We'd love to get more swimmers to get invited," Willman said. "The NCAAs is a selection process, so in order to qualify you would at least need a top 30 time in a single event."
One of the UNH swimmers heading into this year's NCAA tournament is Katie Mann, who was recently named the Philip Hunsaker CollegeSwimming.com Women's Division I Swimmer of the Week. Mann is the second Wildcat this season to receive the national honor. Senior Jenni Roberts earned the weekly award on Jan. 29.
The junior set three America East records over the three-day meet, while winning two events. New Hampshire went on to win the conference title for a second consecutive year and sixth in program history with a championship record of 877 points.
Mann paced the field in the 200-yard IM and set a new conference record with a time of 1:59.12. She also garnered gold in the 400 IM, snapping her own America East record and earning a NCAA B cut time of 4:14.10. Mann became the first three-time winner of the event since UNH's Kristen Nardozzi accomplished the feat between 2001 to 2003.
Mann also posted UNH program records in the 100- and 200-yard breaststroke. In a 200 breaststroke time trial, the junior split a 1:02.17 at the 100 mark, breaking the UNH record. Mann went on to finish the race with a new school record and NCAA provisional standard of 2:10.30, ranking her No. 19 nationally in Division I.
UNH senior teammate and fellow captain, Lauren McCandless praises Mann's recent performance as "phenomenal."
"Katie performed tremendous over the weekend and I know she will prepare well for the NCAA's in the coming weeks," McCandless said.
Mann hopes to prepare better this year than last year.
"Even though I was proud of what I did last year, I have just higher expectations for myself this year," Mann said. "I am going to root these girls on during the ECAC's and hope the best for them all."
Winning the championship has been an incredible feeling for both captains, who credit the entire team for accomplishing the feat.
"It was just a great team effort," McCandless said. "Everyone's swim counted, and most importantly, everyone was doing this for the team. We put so much effort into it and competed at the highest level that we could."
As the season taps out into championship meets, the graduating class of seniors from New Hampshire will be sorely missed by Willman.
"It's really sad," Willman said. "There are a lot of points made by this class, with great leaders. They all just did a fantastic job. It will be hard to say goodbye to all of them, but we have a great junior class coming up, so that is something to look forward to when this season is all said and done."
Willman credits the coaching staff for doing a great job preparing for the America East Championship this past weekend, and is proud at his team for receiving a No. 14 ranking in the BCS polls for swimming and diving.
"Being 14th ranked as a non-BCS school is a pretty big thing," Willman said. "It is just a good time for us right now."
Follow Rob Wilson on Twitter @RobWilson_TNH
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