By Melissa Maykut
OXFORD, Ohio - A couple of key wins from seniors Leah Thornton, Maegan O'Connor, and Stacia Schacter, and flawless diving by junior Nikki Craft were enough to blow the Buffalo Bulls right out of the water Sunday afternoon at the Corwin M. Nixon Aquatic Center. The RedHawks won seven individual events to win the meet by a score of 177-120.
Overall, head coach Dave Jennings said his team was solid against the Bulls after competing against Akron Friday afternoon.
"In a championship format you go a couple days in a row, so to be able to come back and swim a meet the next day or the day after is good experience," Jennings said.
The RedHawks got off to an unlucky start in the 200-yard medley relay when Miami's senior relay team forfeited what would have been a first-place finish due to an early start. O'Connor, juniors Nicole Wagner and Cynthia Donovan, and sophomore Katie Bootsma were able to win some points for Miami after placing second in 1:47.60.
Miami's training and endurance showed in the 1650 freestyle when sophomore Courtney Collett finished second in 17:23.27. Having to play a game of catch up for part of the race, Collett was able to pass a Buffalo swimmer and beat teammate Aubrey Kluth for second. Kluth finished third, two seconds later (17:25.49), while freshman Kelly Rogers earned two points for Miami in fourth (17:35.68).
"We had some very good competition in the freestyle events," Jennings said. "Brittney Kuras does a very good job for them, so it's been good to put some of our girls up against somebody like that."
Miami continued to trail the Bulls, 31-24, despite taking second through fourth in the 200 free race. Sophomore Whitney Mitchell finished runner-up for Miami (1:54.55), while senior Molly Tyler took third (1:54.57), and sophomore Caitlyn Fujan took fourth (1:55.28).
The RedHawks bounced back when senior Leah Thornton earned nine points for Miami with her win in the 100 back (57.51). Junior Brianna Fujan added another four points with a second-place finish (58.51) and Bootsma earned three points by placing third in 58.54.
Over in the diving well, Craft dove her way to victory in the three-meter event, finishing with 304.13 points. She compiled 286.50 points on the one-meter board to place first.
Miami won another 18 points to make it a 56-37 lead when the team earned the top four times in the 100 breaststroke event. Senior Stacie Clagg took first (1:05.95), senior Stacia Schacter finished second (1:06.08), Wagner placed third (1:06.45), and freshman Gabbie Pettinichi placed fourth (1:06.48).
The points kept flowing in for the RedHawks in the 200 butterfly event when Miami once again battled for the top four times. O'Connor finished first in 2:06.18, while teammate Emma Szczupakiewicz took second in 2:07.77. Senior Laura Krueger finished right behind in third (2:07.79), and senior Mandi Grandjean had the fourth-fastest time (2:08.52).
Seniors Bekka Westrick and Maddie Kete finished second (23.43) and third (23.62), respectively, in the 50 free, then repeated their finishes in the 100 free. Unable to catch Buffalo's Brittney Kuras, Westrick finished runner-up in 51.31, while Kete placed third in 51.37.
Thornton did it again in the 200 back, winning nine points for Miami with her top time of 2:04.13. Brianna Fujan went runner-up two seconds behind Thornton (2:06.96), while freshman Shannon Ahearn finished third (2:08.72.)
Clagg repeated her performance from the 100 breast in the 200 breast event, putting Miami up by a count of 134-72 with her 2:22.05 victory time. Schacter then took second in 2:23.55, while junior Michaela Scott earned three points for her third place time (2:23.92.).
Mitchell earned another second-place finish and added four points to Miami's lead in the 500 free, touching the wall at 5:05.43. Sophomore Stephanie Pearce took third in the event (5:05.66) and Tyler finished fourth (5:06.76).
In the final events of the afternoon, O'Connor concluded her racing with a second win in the 100 fly (56.26), while Grandjean took second in 58.49. Thornton then ended the meet with a second-place finish in the 200 IM (2:06.80).
The RedHawks will meet the Bulls again at the Mid-American Conference (MAC) Championships Feb. 28. With several meets to go before then, Jennings and his team will travel to Toledo on Jan. 26 to take on the Rockets.