By Melissa Maykut
OXFORD, Ohio - Victory seems to be the only option for the Miami University women's swimming team this season. Having won every meet this year, minus their first competition against Purdue Oct. 19, the RedHawks will battle to keep their winning streak alive when they take on Mid-American Conference (MAC) rival University of Toledo Saturday, Jan. 26.
The meet will be held at Toledo's Student Recreation Center Pool at 1 p.m.
After getting off to a slow start against Buffalo last weekend, Miami powered past the Bulls to win the dual meet, 177-120, improving its record to 8-1 overall and 3-0 in the MAC. Winning the top three spots in five races and taking the top time in two more events, the RedHawks racked up plenty of points, making it impossible for the Bulls to catch up.
Senior Leah Thornton dominated the backstroke events, winning the 100 back in 57.51 and then the 200 back in 2:04.13. Thornton then ended her day with a runner-up finish in the 200 IM (2:06.80).
Senior Stacie Clagg followed Thornton's lead, taking total control over the breaststroke races. In the 100 breast, Clagg beat out teammate Stacia Schacter for firth, finishing the race in 1:05.95. She then won the 200 breast in 2:22.05.
While the RedHawks battled with the Bulls, the Toledo Rockets took a break from competition. In their most recent meets, the Rockets defeated Michigan State Friday, Jan. 11, then fell to No. 15 Ohio State the day after.
Toledo's Carley Harter won the 100 freestyle (52.09) and the 200 free (1:52.34) against Michigan State, then won the 200 free against Ohio State in 1:50.95, swimming the race almost two seconds faster than she did against the Spartans. Harter could cause some trouble for Miami's Bekka Westrick, who holds the top times for the RedHawks in the 100 free (49.93) and the 200 free (1:47.29).
Toledo's Beth Rogers also looked strong against the Spartans, winning the 50 free race in 23.78, while junior Rachel Johnson won the 1000 free in 10:15.97. Freshman Aubrey Kluth holds the individual top time for the RedHawks in the event, recording a 10:18.80 against the Cincinnati Bearcats Jan. 11.
Going into this weekend, head coach Dave Jennings said he expects Toledo to be ready to race in their home pool, and wants his team to continue to improve as they progress through the second half of the season.
"We would like to be able to go on the road and compete well against the defending MAC champs," Jennings said. "Racing on the road is important as our season goal is to swim great at the end of the season."
The last time these two teams met, Miami dropped the meet by a count of 179-120. Westrick won the 50 free in 23.78, while also helping her relay team to a first-place finish in the 400 free relay.
During competition in the MAC Championships last year, Miami took third overall with 524 points, falling behind Ohio University who placed second, and Toledo who won the championships with 635 points. Westrick had a frustrating championship, settling for third in the 50 free and 100 free finals, losing the runner-up spots to Toledo's Rogers and Harter. Toledo couldn't beat Miami in every event, though. Thornton clinched a victory in the 100 backstroke final, Maegan O'Connor won the 100 butterfly final, and Nikki Craft won the three-meter diving crown, becoming the first diver to win the event since 2000. Her performance earned her MAC Diver of the Year.
Westrick, Thornton, O'Connor and Craft all are veteran members of Miami's 2012-13 squad.
Next weekend (Sat., Feb. 2.), Miami will come home to take on Ball State,