WHITE RIVER JCT., Vt. - Plymouth State University moved up two spots on the final day of competition Sunday and finished in ninth place among 22 schools at the New England Women's Swimming and Diving Championships held at the Upper Valley Aquatic Center.
All eight Panthers who advanced to Sunday night's finals posted their fastest time of the year. PSU moved up to the ninth spot this year after finishing 13th a year ago and going into Sunday night's finals in 11th place. The Panthers were also honored at the end of the meet by receiving the Steve Looke Team Sportsmanship Award.
"The whole weekend was just a fantastic effort from our team," said head coach Al Switzer. "We missed 6-8 days of training in the pool back in January and I wasn't sure how that would affect us, even though we were able to do some aerobic workouts on land. But over the weekend they just got better and better, and the last day was a pistol. They complained of being tired but they rose above it and they just kept improving their times. Our time in the final relay even went down, and that's usually super hard to do. It was just a magnificent effort by our entire team."
Sophomore Nicole Brodeur (Claremont, N.H./Vermont Academy) and senior Chaz Sweeney (Methuen, Mass.) recorded the top finishes for the Panthers with a pair of seventh places. Brodeur qualified seventh in the prelims of the 100-yard freestyle with a time of 56.72 seconds, matching her personal-best time, and lowered it while holding on to the seventh place in the finals with a 56.26. Sweeney swam a season-fastest 30.31 seconds in the 50-yard backstroke prelims, and stayed in seventh while lowered her time slightly in the finals with a 30.29 clocking.
Seniors Caitlin Little (Scituate, Mass.) and Elise Innis (Harpswell, Maine/Mt. Ararat) joined Brodeur in the 100 freestyle and both recorded their top times in the prelims. Little went 57.29 in the morning and 57.82 in the finals to take 12th place while Innis touched the wall is 58.85 seconds in the prelims and 58.90 in the finals and ended up 18th.
Freshman Jennifer Samaro (Salem, N.H./Central Catholic) and sophomore Lara Gruner (Center Barnstead, N.H./Prospect Mountain) placed 12th and 13th, respectively, in the grueling 1,650-yard freestyle. Samaro finished the 66 lengths of the pool in 19 minutes, 55.06 seconds while Gruner came in at 20:01.52.
Sophomore Brittanie Bradley (Scarborough, Maine) and junior Lindsay Graham (Framingham, Mass.) represented Plymouth State in the 200-yard breaststroke, and finished 13th and 14th, respectively. Bradley improved her best time in the event (2:37.88) by over six seconds, and Graham had her best time in both the prelims and the finals (2:43.38).
PSU ended the meet on a strong note as the Panther 400-yard freestyle relay team captured fifth place with a time of 3:48.65, dropping over two seconds off their preliminary time. The group included Brodeur, Little, Innis, and sophomore Brittney Gondek (South Glastonbury, Conn.).
Keene State College (924 points) captured its third consecutive New England championship, while Bentley (802) finished second and Eastern Connecticut (709) third. PSU scored 325 points to finish ninth, trailing eighth-place Simmons (339) and just ahead of Western Connecticut (322) and the University of New England (322).
PSU completed the dual meets with a 7-2 record, earning the most wins in a season since the 1998-99 Panthers went 7-3. The Panthers have won 12 of their last 14 dual meets dating back to last season.
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