Since returning from winter break, the UNI women’s swimming and diving team has had a long month filled with competition, as they race towards the end of the regular season and prepare for the Missouri Valley Conference championships. The purple and gold returned to the competition pool on Jan. 12 and since then, have faced five opponents in four meets in two weeks.
In their Jan. 12 return from break, the Panthers welcomed the Iowa Central Tritons and the Loras College Duhawks to the WRC for a double duel. In a night of pure aquatic dominance, UNI took home first place in all but one event.
Freshman Anika Lillegard-Bouton, junior Madison Rinaldi, and freshman Tina Meyer went 1-2-3 in the 200 freestyle, all finishing within four seconds of each other. Emma Baertlein dropped six seconds off her 1000 freestyle for a new personal best of 11:14.73.
Reigning MVC 50 freestyle champion senior Molly Lembezeder defended her title, winning with a time of 24.08.
In the diving well, junior Alyssa Deuso took first, scoring 225.59 in the one meter springboard, while freshman Izzy Bunchek set a new personal record in winning the three meter contest with a 251.25 score. The Panthers blew out both teams, beating the Tritons, 194-28 and the Duhawks, 187-45.
The following afternoon, the purple and gold took on in-state rival Iowa State. Despite falling to the Cyclones 188.5-110.5, UNI put on a strong performance as they honored their six senior athletes on senior day. Lembezeder, who was named Swimmer of the Week by the MVC for her performance, took home victories in the 50 and 100 freestyle, clocking in a 24.11 and 52.72, respectively.
Sophomore Katie Taylor swept both the 100 and 200 backstroke events, while Lembezeder, Crystal Florman, Rachel Siebenaller and Maya Appleton took first in the 400 freestyle relay, finishing with a 3:38.38 final time. Senior Hannah Brummel led the Panthers in diving, taking third in one meter and second in the three meter.
Last Friday, UNI hit the road to take on the Redbirds of Illinois State. Taylor dominated the meet, taking home convincing victories in the 100 and 200 back, as well as the 200 individual medley. Kylie Engstrom and Jordan McCullough finished first and third, respectively, in the 500 freestyle, each finishing 5:12.11 and 5:17.31.
Additionally, the Panthers swept both relay events. Freshman Jayden Lovell took second in the one meter, while Deuso finished third in the three meter competition. In a rarity in the sport of swimming and diving, the Panthers finished the meet with a tie with the Redbirds, 150-150.
The next day, the purple and gold took a two hour trip up to Macomb, IL to take on the Western Illinois Leathernecks. The Panthers posted another strong performance in their 187-102 win. Lillegard-Bouton took first in the 1000 freestyle, while Lembezeder swept the 50 and 100 freestyle once again this season.
Siebenaller, Meredith Gorman and Appleton went 1-2-3 in the 500 freestyle, all within an eight second block of each other. Lovell carried the Panthers’ diving in the one meter competition for the second straight meet, taking second, as freshman Mary Kate Ferlmann finished second in the three meter with a 224.55 score.
The Panthers will wrap up the regular season tomorrow as they travel to take on the South Dakota State Jackrabbits. This meet was originally scheduled for last October, but was rescheduled due to pool-related mechanical problems in Brookings. This will be the first time UNI faces their former head coach, Doug Humphrey, who became the new coach for the Jackrabbits after running the UNI program from 2012-2017. Sitting at 6-4-1, the Panthers will have one more shot at picking up another dual meet victory before they host the MVC Championships, Feb. 14-18 in Iowa City.