OKLAHOMA CITY- Trailing by one point with one event left, Boise State set a Mountain West record to win the 400-yard freestyle relay and grab the team crown at the 2012 Mountain West Swimming and Diving Championships. The Broncos won 10 events, including four relays to dethrone defending-champion San Diego State, 747-742, in the closest team race in meet history.
Amber Boucher, Stevie Hughey, Jessica Bottelberghe and Stephanie North teamed up for the championship-clenching relay win. Boucher led off and put the Broncos out front. Hughey swam the fastest second leg in the field to keep Boise State in the lead. Bottelerghe went out with the fastest 50 in her leg, but faded in the end as San Diego State began to catch up. The win was never in doubt though as North jumped in and brought home the victory, the conference record and team championship with a blazing 47.86 final split.
The only remaining drama was a delay as the officials determined any disqualifications for false starts. After a long discussion there was one disqualification, but it was not Boise State. The Aztecs took second in the race to make the team score as tight as possible.
The Broncos have won three-consecutive conference team championships after taking the Western Athletic Conference in their final two years in the league. In just its sixth year as a program, Boise State swimming and diving has won a conference title in half of its seasons in program history.
Boucher was named MW Swimmer of the Year after winning two individual events and swimming on the four winning relays. The senior set MW records in the 50-yard freestyle (22.31), 200-yard freestyle (1:45.85) and 100-yard butterfly (52.30). She was also under her own MW record in the 100-yard freestyle, but teammate Stephanie North out-touched her in the final. Three of the relay teams set conference records, as well.
Boucher joins Kellen Moore (football) as the only student-athletes in Boise State history to earn Conference Player of the Year honors three times.
Head Coach Kristin Hill was named MW Swimming Coach of the Year. It is her second-straight conference coach of the year honor.
The title is Boise State's first team championship as a member of the Mountain West.
It was a total team effort Saturday, as many swimmers and divers improved their standing from the morning qualifying session. It started with Jennifer Cahill's incredible 1650-yard freestyle. Cahill broke her own school record by nearly 20 seconds with a 16:27.80 to finish second. She almost ran down UNLV's Jessica Heim for the win, but touched the wall less than a second behind. With Heim and Cahill taking the top two spots, it helped break up San Diego State's biggest event. Based on seeding, the Aztecs were slated to score 62 points but settled for 53.
Emily Blasko also scored in the mile with a career-best 17:01.54. Her 11th-place finish was up two spots from her seed. Still, San Diego State outscored the Broncos by 30 in the event and took over the team lead.
Boise State started to chip away in the 200-yard backstroke. All three Broncos moved up from their qualifying position, including Sydney Johansen's school-record 1:58.64 to finish third in the 'A' Final. Jessica Bottelberghe took sixth in the championship final and Nikki Cannon set a career best 2:00.83 to finish fourth in the consolation final.
North and Boucher put the Broncos on top with a 1-2 finish in the 100-yard freestyle. North set the all-time Mountain West record with a 48.34, one one-hundredth off of Boucher's school record. Boucher finished just behind her at 48.51. Stevie Hughey also earned points with a third-place finish in consolations.
The Broncos continued to outscore the Aztecs in the 200-yard breaststroke with Heather Harper and Chelsea Miller finishing fifth and sixth, respectively. UNLV again helped the cause, as the Rebels' Marley Prothero came on in the end of the race to win from the second seed and upset SDSU's Katelyn Weddle.
All three Broncos moved up in the 200-yard butterfly. Rachel Heaney broke two minutes in the championship heat and finished third in 1:59.71. Brooke Balogh swam a career-best 2:02.07 to toch first in a tightly-contested consolation final. Christine Raininger was third in the 'B' Final with a 2:02.33. Even though the Aztecs also improved on their qualifying positions, Boise State took a 22-point lead heading into the last two events.
First up was the platform diving final. San Diego State entered the event with half of the field and Boise State had three entrants in the top eight. Lexi Pfeiffer had already secured two points for Boise State with a career-best 185.70 to finish seventh in the consolation final. The Aztecs came away with the top two spots, but Amanda Burnett grabbed her first-career medal with a third-place finish with a 247.90. Burnett was followed by two more Aztecs, before Tana Loan and Ciera Cortney finished sixth and seventh, respectively.
San Diego State came out of the event with a one-point lead to set up the dramatics that surrounded the 400 freestyle relay.
Despite losing ground to the Aztecs on platform, Boise State's divers delivered their best showing in program history. The divers scored 110 points at the 2012 championships. Last season, which had been the most successful to date, the Broncos scored 26 points at the WAC Championships.
The swimmers will wait until Wednesday, to learn their NCAA Championships fate. For the divers, Burnett and Cortney will head to the NCAA Zone Championships March 8-10, in Colorado Springs, Colo.