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SIU women’s swim and dive can’t repeat; finishes second in MVC Championships

SIU+junior+Bryn+Handley+swims+the+500-yard+freestyle+race+Saturday%2C+Dec.+3%2C+2016%2C+during+the+Saluki+women%27s+team%27s+155-143+loss+to+Missouri+State+at+Edward+J.+Shea+Natatorium.+Handley+and+her+teammates%2C+junior+Kelsie+Walker+and+senior+Lauren+Stockton%2C+took+the+top+three+places+in+the+500-yard+freestyle+event.+%28Morgan+Timms+%7C+%40Morgan_Timms%29
SIU junior Bryn Handley swims the 500-yard freestyle race Saturday, Dec. 3, 2016, during the Saluki women's team's 155-143 loss to Missouri State at Edward J. Shea Natatorium. Handley and her teammates, junior Kelsie Walker and senior Lauren Stockton, took the top three places in the 500-yard freestyle event. (Morgan Timms | @Morgan_Timms)

SIU junior Bryn Handley swims the 500-yard freestyle race Saturday, Dec. 3, 2016, during the Saluki women's team's 155-143 loss to Missouri State at Edward J. Shea Natatorium. Handley and her teammates, junior Kelsie Walker and senior Lauren Stockton, took the top three places in the 500-yard freestyle event. (Morgan Timms | @Morgan_Timms)

Morgan Timms

Morgan Timms

SIU junior Bryn Handley swims the 500-yard freestyle race Saturday, Dec. 3, 2016, during the Saluki women's team's 155-143 loss to Missouri State at Edward J. Shea Natatorium. Handley and her teammates, junior Kelsie Walker and senior Lauren Stockton, took the top three places in the 500-yard freestyle event. (Morgan Timms | @Morgan_Timms)

By Sean Carley

One year after dramatically ending Missouri State’s eight-year tenure as Missouri Valley Conference champions in its home pool, SIU’s women’s swimming and diving couldn’t quite repeat last year’s magic.

The Salukis couldn’t quite catch Missouri State and had to settle for second place in the 2017 MVC championship Sunday, finishing 183.5 points behind the Bears.

Southern clinched second while without multiple key components of last year’s championship squad. Junior Kelsie Walker did not compete and sophomore Oliwia Okaj was not on the scoring team.

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SIU had five swimmers — sophomores Audrey Snyder and Jordan Ries; juniors Nicole Fuller and Bryn Handley and senior Lauren Stockton, as well as junior diver Rachel Williams — finish in the top three in their events to earn first-team All-Conference honors.

Handley led the Salukis throughout the meet by picking up all three of SIU’s individual victories as well as earning the women’s swimming and diving Elite 18 award for the conference.

Her performance in the 1650-yard freestyle was arguably the most dominant outing of the meet. The Louisville native held the lead at every split in the race from start to finish, eventually opening a gap longer than a length of the pool heading into the final turn.

She then proceeded to drop her second-fastest split of the entire event (28.51 seconds) to beat Stockton by nearly 35 seconds. Her final sprint was good enough for her to finish in 16:29.21, edging out the “B” standard necessary — 16:30.59 — to be eligible to compete in the NCAA championship in March.

Handley also won the 200 and 500-yard freestyle, as well as anchoring the winning 800-yard freestyle relay team with Stockton, Fuller and Ries.

That win in the 800-yard freestyle relay helped SIU stay within striking distance at the end of the first day of the meet, only two points behind Missouri State, 74-72.

SIU took the lead after all four members of the 800-freestyle relay team finished in the top six of the first event the next day, the 500-yard freestyle. Handley came up just 17 hundredths of a second short of the NCAA “B” standard for the event in her victory.

However, Missouri State had five swimmers finish in the top six of the next event to reclaim the lead and never looked back.

Later in day two, Williams became the fifth Saluki to earn her all-conference honors, finishing second in the one-meter dive. She also finished third in the three-meter dive.

Fuller earned her all-conference honor with a second place finish in the 200-yard butterfly.

In addition to the first-team members, freshmen Payton Parman, Laura Carver, Madeleine Cieszynski and Samantha Parsons; sophomores Emma Brazeau and Jess Peck; and senior Sarah James earned honorable mention All-Conference honors.

While the women’s season is now over, the men’s team will compete in the Mid-American Conference championship March 1-4 in Shea Natatorium in the Student Recreation Center.

Staff writer Sean Carley can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @SeanMCarley.

To stay up to date with all your SIU sports news, follow the Daily Egyptian on Facebook and Twitter.

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