MW Title Race to Heat Up Tonight

OKLAHOMA CITY- Boise State trails San Diego State by four points entering the evening session on Friday at the Mountain West Swimming and Diving Championships, but the Broncos are in position to score big.

Boise State takes 14 swimmers into scoring heats tonight, including a meet-best 10 in championship finals. Three Broncos posted the top spot in qualifying and the 200-yard freestyle relay will be one of the Broncos' strongest. The Aztecs have 16 swimmers in action, with eight in 'A' Finals. UNLV- in third place after Thursday -has 15 scoring swims on tap, including seven in the top flights.

Amber Boucher set her third MW record of the meet to qualify first in the 100-yard butterfly. Boucher clocked a 52.30 for the second-fastest time in school history and was the only swimmer to break 54 seconds in the event. Boucher will not only go for her second individual win tonight, but has a chance to become the first Bronco to post an automatic qualifying mark for the NCAA Championships. The standard in the 100 butterfly is 52.02. She narrowly missed last season with a 52.05 to win the WAC title, but that day her prelim time was 52.46.

Stevie Hughey will join her in the 'A' Final after qualifying third in 54.55. Boucher and Hughey finished 1-2 at the conference meet last year (WAC).

Stephanie North turned in the top qualifying time in the 200-yard freestyle. North finished in 1:47.51, more than a second ahead of the No. 2 time. North won the 200 freestyle at last season's WAC Championships.

Emily Irvin and Jennifer Cahill qualified 13th and 14th, respectively, and will look to move up in the consolation final.

Christine Raininger took the top spot in the 400-yard individual medley relay with a time of 4:18.58, second-fastest in school history. Raininger leads a trio of swimmers who are within a quarter second of each other and more than a second in front of the rest of the field. The 'A' Final group includes two more Broncos in Chelsea Miller and Rachel Heaney. Miller (4:22.20) and Heaney (4:22.38) qualified seventh and eighth respectively. The Broncos also have the ninth-fastest time in the event as Brooke Balogh's 4:22.70 leads the consolation final.

Sydney Johansen set her second individual school record in as many days, posting a 1:01.74 in the 100-yard breaststroke to qualify second. Johansen is more than a half second behind the leader (2010 champion Katelyn Weddle of SDSU), but the two tied for the fastest final 50 yards in the field.

Emily Irvin and Heather Harper also set personal bests to qualify for the 'A' Final. Irvin turned in a 1:02.60 (fourth) and Harper is right on her heels in fifth with a 1:02.75. Both times are NCAA 'B" cuts.

Irvin's previous personal best of 1:03.57 was set her freshman season and stood as the school record until last year. She will look to improve even further in what could be the last race of her career.

In the 100-yard backstroke, Jessica Bottelberghe broke 55 seconds for the first time and earned an NCAA provisional cut with a 54.96 to place fourth in prelims. Fellow freshman Nikki Cannon squeaked into the 'B' Final with a season-best 56.70 for 15th place. The consolation final promises to be a close race with room to move up for Cannon as all eight competitors were within a second of each other in qualifying.

The night will lead off with the 200-yard freestyle relay. Boise State is seeded second, but after the performances thus far the Broncos appear to be the favorite. The race consists of four legs of the 50-yard freestyle. During the individual 50 freestyle Thursday, Boucher (22.31) and North (22.33) finished 1-2, and combine for the four fastest times in MW history. Hughey (22.93) finished fifth in the event, and Sydney Johansen swam a 22.66 split in anchoring the 200-yard medley relay team.

UNLV enters as the top seed and also had three swimmers score points in the 50 freestyle.

Action gets started at 6 p.m. (CT) from Oklahoma City Community College. The evening will end with a three-meter synchronized diving exhibition. The Broncos' lineup for that non-scoring event is undetermined.

» «