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March 3, 2011
Joe Reinsch
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ST. PETERS, Mo. -- Azusa Pacific registered a pair of top-6 finishes in both relay events and used top-4 performances in 2 of the 3 individual events to emerge from the first full day of swimming events still holding second place behind California Baptist at the 2011 NAIA Women’s Swimming & Diving National Championships.

On the day, the Cougars tallied 110 points, scoring 56 points in 3 individual finals and another 54 points in the 2 relay finals. Azusa Pacific’s 2-day total is 141 points, a distant second behind California Baptist and its 242 points. The Cougars have a slim 2-point edge over Fresno Pacific, and Concordia sits in fourth with 127 points.

The Cougars’ 200-yard medley relay team started off the day’s action by finishing sixth in the morning prelims, moving from a No. 9-seed qualifying time into the 8-team “A” finals race Thursday evening. In the finals, Azusa Pacific was edged out of fifth place by a margin of five-hundredths of a second by Simon Fraser University despite freshman Quinn Robertson swimming the third-fastest freestyle anchor leg in the race.

Robertson swam the final 50 yards in 23.45 seconds, previewing her fourth-place finish in the 50-yard sprint final later in the evening. Robertson swam the 50-yard freestyle final in 24.18, edging out freshman teammate Victoria Gibb, the fifth-place finisher, by seven-hundredths of a second.

Gibb took advantage of a disappointing showing in prelims from event favorite Mary Hanson of California Baptist. Hanson entered the event with the fastest qualifying time, but ran 15th in prelims to settle for a “B” finals appearance. Gibb finished eighth in prelims, securing the last spot in the “A” finals, while Hanson won the “B” final for only 9 points despite turning in the fastest time of either finals race. The Cougars’ top-5 finishes in the sprint’s “A” finals were worth a combined 29 points towards Azusa Pacific’s team total.

Senior Kaylen Hewko, an individual champion in 3 events last year, attempted her first individual title defense of the meet Thursday in the 500-yard freestyle. After entering the meet with the second-fastest qualifying time in the event, Hewko was third in the prelims and posted a time of 5:02.17 in the finals to claim fourth place, another 15-point boost to Azusa Pacific’s team total.

In the same event, senior Karla Hill was the second-to-last qualifier for the “B” final, and she climbed another 4 spots to take third in her race and pick up another 6 points. Sophomore Simone Garcia also took third in the “B” final of the 200-yard individual medley with a time of 2:10.55.

In the final event of the day, Azusa Pacific claimed 28 more points with a fifth-place finish from its 800-yard freestyle relay team of Gibb, Hill, Robertson, and Hewko.

Two more full days of action remain at the 4-day NAIA championships, with 8 finals highlighting Friday’s action. Azusa Pacific has 2 entrants in 3-meter diving, which wraps up the diving portion of the championships, and there are 5 individual events plus 2 more relays. The Cougars have entries in the prelims of all 8 events, including another potential individual title defense for Hewko in the 100-yard butterfly.

Preliminary heats begin at 10 a.m. Central time, with finals set to start at 6 p.m. Central. Live event results can be found at http://naia.cstv.com/livestats/m-swim/index.htm, and full championship information is available at naia.org.