By Melissa Maykut
Buffalo, N.Y. - Senior Leah Thornton led the way for Miami University during Friday morning's preliminaries at the 2013 Mid-American Conference Championships. Her personal-best time of 53.87 in the 100 backstroke not only won the race, but blew away four records.
Miami will send 11 swimmers and one diver to the finals and five other RedHawks to the consolation races tonight at 7 p.m.
Thornton was unstoppable in the 100 back preliminary Friday morning, setting a high standard for the finals to come. Out-racing Ohio University's Andy Ferguson and teammate Brianna Fujan, Thornton hit the wall in 53.87, breaking the MAC and MAC Championship meet records, as well as the pool and Miami records.
Thornton originally set the MAC and Miami records in the 100 back at the 2011 MAC Championships, winning the final in 54.36. Thornton's time is almost two seconds faster than the best time of 55.40 she set earlier this season.
Fujan finished the 100 back prelim in third with a personal-best 55.13, also a new pool record. Fujan will swim in the 100 back final, as well as the 400 IM consolation final after finishing ninth in the preliminary round.
Senior Bekka Westrick had some glory of her own, setting a pool record in the 100 butterfly. She won the race in 53.97, while teammate Maegan O'Connor finished fifth with a personal-best 54.46. O'Connor will also race in the 100 back final after finishing eighth in the prelim contest.
Three more RedHawks will represent Miami in the finals after earning top times in the 100 breaststroke prelim. Junior Nicole Wagner went runner-up in a time of 1:02.41, senior Stacia Schacter finished sixth (1:03.12), and freshman Gabbie Pettinichi finished eighth (1:03.38). All three swimmers recorded season-bests in this morning's prelim event.
The remaining swimmers who finished the morning with season-best times and spots in tonight's finals include freshman Aubrey Kluth for her fourth-place finish in the 400 IM (4:21.31), senior Stace Clagg who took eighth in the same event (4:23.91), and sophomore Courtney Collett for her sixth-place finish in the 200 freestyle prelim (1:50.30).
Seniors Maddie Kete and Molly Tyler will compete in the 200 free consolation finals after finishing 14th and 16th in the preliminary race, and sophomore Katie Bootsma will compete in the consolation race of the 100 back.
In diving, junior Nikki Craft finished fourth in the three-meter diving preliminary, and will compete in the finals Saturday night. Senior Corey Bangs finished 13th overall and will dive in the consolation final Friday night.
After jumping out in front last night with 192 points, Miami will enter tonight's contest with 12 finalists, the most out of all eight competitors. Ohio will return tonight in second place with 172 points, while Eastern Michigan is currently in third with 155 points.
Finals will begin at 7 p.m. tonight, and competition will continue Saturday. To watch live streaming of the 2013 MAC Championships, click here. Live results for Friday and Saturday's events are also available.