Senior Julia Nilton led the way for the West Virginia University men’s and women’s swimming and diving teams, earning a bronze medal in the 50 freestyle, on the second night of competition at the Big 12 Swimming and Diving Championship, at the Aquatic Center at Mylan Park, on Thursday night in Morgantown.
Nilton’s third-place performance in the 50 free highlighted the second night of competition for the Mountaineers, as the Fortaleza, Brazil, native earned All-Big 12 First Team honors. Additionally, the men’s 400 medley relay team picked up a silver medal for WVU, after junior Angelo Russo, sophomore Fausto Huerta, junior David Dixon and freshman Hunter Armstrong placed second in the final event of the day.
In addition to Nilton’s first team accolade, seven other Mountaineers earned All-Big 12 Second Team honors on Thursday, including senior Morgan Bullock, Dixon, juniors Ryen Van Wyk and Christopher O’Shea, Armstrong and freshmen Holly Darling and Emily Haimes.
“I thought it was a very exciting second night,” WVU coach Vic Riggs said. “Our morning got stronger as we went through the events, but tonight we started with some very good 500 freestyles and kept the momentum going throughout the night. Our divers had a very good day, and the women are in a close race with TCU for third place.”
The night opened with the 500 freestyle finals, as sophomore Emma Bliss represented West Virginia in the A final, finishing seventh with a time of 4:56.09. Junior Giselle Gursoy raced in the B final, also placing seventh with a time of 4:48.20 for 14th overall. A pair of Mountaineers competed in the C final, as sophomore Luisa Winkler finished first in her heat after touching the wall in 5:01.73, and freshman Anne-Elaine Tiller took seventh (5:08.43).
For the men, freshman Zach Boley competed in the event’s A final and took eighth place after touching the pads in 4:30.18. Three Mountaineer swimmers competed in the B final, including junior Max Gustafson, who finished first in the heat to place ninth overall (4:27.26). Seniors Brandon Christian and Ryan Kelly finished seventh (4:31.67) and eighth (4:36.54), respectively.
Bullock and Dixon paced West Virginia in the 200 individual medleys with a pair of fourth-place finishes, as Bullock posted a time of 2:00.45 in the women’s A final and Dixon touched the wall in 1:45.57 for the men. Sophomore Josh Harlan and junior Philip Kay also appeared in the men’s A final, placing seventh (1:49.03) and eighth (1:49.97), respectively.
In the B final for the women’s event, junior Kayla Gagnon finished eighth in the heat and 16th overall with a time of 2:07.08. In the C final, sophomore Megan Zartman placed fifth (2:08.15) and classmate Lauren Beckish followed in seventh (2:09.31).
Five men appeared in the B final of the 200 IM, including sophomore Ben Brooks (fourth – 1:50.70), freshmen Michael Sandner (fifth – 1:52.18), Jonathan Bennett (sixth – 1:53.42) and Conrad Molinaro (seventh – 1:53.32) and junior Fausto Huerta (eighth – 1:56.69).
Nilton’s bronze-medal performance in the 50 free came next, as she touched the wall in 22.89 to take third, followed by Haimes in fourth (22.98). In the B final, Bliss captured eighth place (23.65), while freshman Harna Minezawa finished third in the C final (23.62)
The men’s team notched a 4-5-6-7 finish in the men’s 50 free, led by Armstrong in fourth with a time of 19.78. Behind Armstrong were Van Wyk and O’Shea in fifth (19.93) and sixth (20.21), respectively, followed by senior Sam Neaveill in seventh (20.34).
In the diving well, Darling represented the ladies in the 1-meter springboard finals, placing sixth overall with a finals score of 280.85. Additionally, four Mountaineer divers competed in the 1-meter consolation final. Freshman Marian Tiemeier paced the squad, finishing second in the final and 10th overall with an NCAA Zones-qualifying score of 271.20. Following Tiemeier were sophomore Camille Burt in third (267.20), junior Callie Smith in sixth (257.95) and sophomore Emma Longley in eighth (243.20).
“Today was a pretty good day for the ladies on the boards,” diving coach Michael Grapner said. “I thought the four girls in the consolation final did a fantastic job scoring some points and making appropriate improvements from prelims. On top of that, Holly was incredible today. She’s the queen of consistency, and her performances from prelims to finals tonight made me very proud as her coach.”
Thursday’s action concluded with the 400 medley relay competitions. For the women, junior Ally VanNetta, freshman Mathilde Kaelbel, Bullock and Haimes combined to place fifth with a time of 3:44.20. The men’s team’s silver medal came next, as Russo, Huerta, Dixon and Armstrong touched the wall in 3:09.00 to claim second place.
West Virginia continues Big 12 Championship action on Friday, Feb. 28, at the Aquatic Center at Mylan Park. Prelims are set to begin at 10 a.m. ET, while finals will commence at 6 p.m. ET.