ORLANDO, Fla. – Saint Leo freshman swimmer Maggie Walker claimed a Sunshine State Conference individual championship as she claimed victory in the 100 yard freestyle on the final day of the SSC Championships held at the Central Florida YMCA Aquatic Center. It was a day when more individual records would fall as set records would be set.
Team-wise, the Saint Leo women finished solidly in fourth place with 464 points, behind SSC Champions Tampa, and the men, who had swapped positions with Rollins a number of times during the four-day event, finished in fourth with 402 points.
Walker was one of six Lions who qualified for NCAA Division II 'B' standard times as she touched with a time of 51.62.
"Having six people to qualify provisionally for the NCAA is a big step for this program, when last year at this time no one was eligible for NCAA competition," said head coach Paul Mangen. "Of the six, only one is an upperclassman (Alisha Adams).
We have several athletes in the top 16 nationally and our relays are top 30 in the country on many occasions. Obviously the polls indicate we are one of the top 25 programs in the country on both sides and that can now be supported statistically."
Next up was senior Alisha Adams, whose 200 yd. backstroke time of 2:08.06 was also good enough for a 'B' cut. Another 'B' time was made when Antonio Roki, also in the 200 back, with a men's time of 1:54.35. Both times qualified as new team records.
Derek Maddigan joined the group of 'B' qualifiers with a 200 yd. breaststroke time of 2:08.08, marking another broken record.
Individually, Kristy Marques' 1650 yd. freestyle time also marked a new team standard of 18:13.96.
Both 400 yd. freestyle relay teams, the men's team consisting of Roki, Carlos Araque, Michael Cozzi and Gabe Keown and the women's team with Adams, Walkers, Jessica Pall and Mindy Pierce posted times of 3:11.06 and 3:37.64 respectively, another set of records.
"You would have to look hard to find an area that did not improve within this program," Mangen said. "In total, 26 team records were set this year compared to 16 in 2010."
On the women's side, the University of Tampa won the inaugural Championships after they took the lead after day two at the championship and never looked back en route to a total score of 932 points. Florida Southern finished second with 823.5 points. Rollins placed third with 531.5 points. Saint Leo (464) and Nova Southeastern (408) rounded out the standings.
The men saw Nova Southeastern lead from start to finish and capped off a 213-point win on Sunday. The Sharks amassed 956.5 points in the four-day competition. Tampa finished second with 743.5 points. The Spartans edged third-place Florida Southern with a win in the final event of the championship, the men's 400-yard freestyle relay. FSC concluded the championship with 740.5 points. Saint Leo (402) and Rollins (394.5) rounded out the standings.
Mangen continued, "Our conference is one that all NCAA Division II teams interested in going to the NCAA meet were anticipating because many of the SSC swims pushed others out and I feel we are lucky to be part of a conference that measures up to any and all conferences in terms of quality and depth.
This program is a very well rounded program made up of great people that have worked hard to better themselves in all aspects of life. I'm just as proud of the women being ranked 3rd nationally in team GPA as I am for their individual improvements in the pool. The men endured a great deal of untimely and unforeseeable injuries and illness but never lost sight of the team concept and continued to work towards their personal and team goals."
The Lions' qualifiers now await the NCAA selections to see if their times qualify for the NCAA Swimming Championships to be held in San Antonio, Tex. Saint Leo should find out their qualifications later this week.