Larsen claims gold, Panthers finish 4th at MVCs



Faith Larsen with her championship plaque from the 50-yard freestyle.

DREW HILL, Opinion Columnist

The UNI women’s swimming and diving team competed at the 2023 Missouri Valley Conference Swimming and Diving Championships on Wednesday through Saturday, Feb. 15-18. UNI ended up placing fourth, one spot better than last year’s finish. UNI had multiple top-five finishes that helped them finish in fourth.

Faith Larsen claimed the lone gold for UNI in the 50-yard freestyle with a time of 22.50 seconds, breaking a 2019 program record. Larsen also had a strong performance for UNI in the 100-yard freestyle. In an extremely tight race, her time of 50.26 seconds put her just two-hundredths of a second behind second-place finisher Alexa Szadorski of Illinois State and just over two-tenths of a second behind first-place finisher Jordan Wenner of Missouri State.

Another great performance came in the 200-yard backstroke. Amber Finke claimed second-place with a time of 1:57.34, finishing less than two seconds behind first-place finisher Celia Pulido of Southern Illinois, who had a time of 1:56.01. Finke added a bronze in the 100-yard backstroke, finishing with a time of 54.45.

Just behind Finke in the 100-yard backstroke were two other top-eight finishers. Helena Heuberger claimed fifth with a time of 55.18, and Payton Hall claimed eighth with a time of 56.06. Hallory Domnick took sixth in the 100-yard freestyle with a time of 1:51.33. Olivia Chambers finished in seventh in the 1650-yard freestyle with a time of 17:10.48. Finally, rounding up individual top-eight finishes, Hannah Taylor claimed eighth in the three-meter diving with a score of 204.57.

UNI also saw several of its relay teams fare well. In the 200-yard freestyle relay, UNI placed three teams within the top ten. Finke, Larsen, Clare Christensen and Abby Lear finished in third with a time of 1:32.97. Hannah Nedder, Abby McCorkle, Morgan Meyer and Casey Summers finished in seventh with a time of 1:34.57. Heuberger, Natalia Verastegui, Taylor Short and Ema Lavigne finished in 10th with a time of 1:35.82. The 400-yard medley relay team, composed of Finke, Larsen, Scout Bergwall and Sydney Aird, claimed fifth place with a time of 3:43.29.

The 200-yard medley relay saw one UNI team place in the top 10. Heuberger, Aird, Bergwall and Larsen grabbed another fifth place with a time of 1:41.12. Two Panther teams placed in the top 10 in the 800-yard freestyle relay. Finke, Domnick, Verastegui and Sarah Walpole finished third with a time of 7:35.11, while Chambers, Meyer, Nedder and Madison Carleton claimed ninth with a 7:45.80 time. Finally, a team composed of Finke, Meyer, Lear and Larsen took fourth in the 400-yard freestyle relay with a time of 3:24.07.

Larsen and Finke received First-Team All-MVC honors. Domnick, Heuberger, Hall, Chambers and Taylor received All-MVC Honorable Mention.

UNI finished with 881 points, putting them in fourth. They finished between Illinois State with 997 points and Southern Illinois with 854 points. First place went to Missouri State with 1,326 points, and second went to Indiana State with 1,200.5 points. The NCAA Zone Diving will be held Monday through Thursday, March 6-9. The NCAA Championships will be held Wednesday through Saturday, March 15-18.