Kuras, Morrell and Freestyle Relayers Win MAC Titles on Opening Night
AKRON, OH – The University at Buffalo got off to a strong start as the Bulls won three events on Thursday as the Mid-American Conference Women's Swimming and Diving Championships got underway at Ocasek Natatorium. The Bulls tallied 162 points for second place among eight squads to trail first-place Ohio.
Brittney Kuras and Mallory Morrell won individual events and earned NCAA B cuts on Thursday night and also combined as part of a winning relay foursome as the Bulls set four school records and five pool records on the opening day of action.
The Bulls got things going immediately as UB claimed the first event of Thursday's championship round, the 200-yard freestyle relay. The foursome of Marissa Murphy, Kuras, Taylor Steffl and Morrell broke the UB school record with their 1:30.45 clocking as the Bulls held off second-place Ohio by 0.33 seconds, denying the Bobcats of their fourth consecutive title in the event. It also gave the Bulls an NCAA B cut.
Kuras then won the 200-yard individual medley in a UB and pool record time of 1:59.84 as she held off two-time defending MAC champion Carly Harter of Toledo by .04 seconds. Kuras set the two records in the preliminary round when she was the fastest qualifier in 2:00.06, breaking Jennefer Brankovsky's 2003 record of 2:01.91 and the pool record. Brankovsky won the crown in 2003 and 2005. Kuras also broke a four-year string of Toledo champions in the event as Meg Reissing won in 2008 and 2009 and Harter in 2010 and 2011. Alie Schirmers finished fifth in the championship final in 2:03.21 and Spencer Rodriguez placed eighth in 2:04.88. The Bulls also had a pair of finishers in the consolation race with Murphy taking 14th overall in 2:03.86 and Brynn Marecki finishing 16th in 2:06.00.
Morrell claimed the 50-yard freestyle in 22.59, setting the UB and pool records for the second time on the day. Morrell held off second-place Beth Rogers of Toledo by .17 seconds. Morrell posted a 22.63 in the preliminary round, cutting .16 seconds from Caroline Simmons' record set at last year's MAC Championships. It was also the first UB championship in the 50-yard freestyle since Inger Rooneem claimed the crown in the 2000 meet. Taylor Steffl was seventh in the final in 23.29.
Ava Giachino finished eighth in the one-meter diving competition. She turned in a six-dive total of 274.40 points in the championship round.
The Bulls completed the night with a fifth-place finish in the 400-yard medley relay, breaking another UB record. The foursome of Melissa Trail, Marecki, Steffl and Kuras finished in 3:43.90, cutting a half-second from the 2009 record.
Emma Miller finished fifth in the consolation final (13th overall) in the 500-yard freestyle. Miller turned in a 4:58.32 in the final round, cutting her top time prior to the league meet by nearly 10 seconds.
Head coach Andy Bashor commented on his team's progress following the first night of action. "It was a tremendous night for UB women's swimming and diving," said Bashor. "The women performed their hearts out tonight. We are psyched about the next two days."
Competition continues through Saturday.
Team scores (through six events): Ohio 239, Buffalo 162, Toledo 159, Miami (OH) 144.5, Eastern Michigan 134, Akron 95, Bowling Green 82.5, Ball State 76.