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The Missouri State Lady Bears are the favorite to win the Missouri Valley Conference Championship again this year in Carbondale, Illinois, but ifWednesday night is any indication they are going to have a fight on their hands to keep that title. They hold a two point lead with 74 points after two relay events in the first session with Saluki’s nipping at their heels and Evansville sharing the third spot with Illinois State just ten more points behind.
The Bears’ 200 Medley Relay squad of Meghan Holthoff, Anna Bump, Isabella Simcox and Kate Gately started out ahead after an impressive 25.92 backstroke split from Holthoff but the lead was short-lived. The Evansville Aces nearly stole this one on the momentum of an ace of a fly split of 24.64 from Danielle Freeman, actually taking the lead at the 150. In the end, Evansville snuck past the Saluki’s for second, but could not hold back the Bears with their 22.65 anchor from Kate Gately who hit the wall at 1:42.82 for the win. Illinois State, Arkansas-Little Rock, and Northern Iowa rounded out the fourth through sixth place scoring spots.
The top split in the 800 Free Relay was Southern Illinois’ Kelsie Walker’s blazing 1:47.82 lead off, but the Saluki’s immediately gave up the lead to the Bears on two 1:49 splits from Sydney Zupan and Kate Gately. The desert dogs were able to claw their way back to the front for the win as Bryn Handley stormed past Missouri State’s Ibby Simcox to get her hand to the wall for the points they needed to keep it interesting with 7:18.77 to the Bears’ 7:20.77. The Illinois State Red Birds took third with 7:25.80, with Northern Iowa, Evansville and Little Rock landing fourth through sixth.
Thursday Prelims begin at 11am and Finals action starts at 6pm at the Dr Edward Shea Natatorium in Carbondale.
Team scores after day 1:
1. Missouri State – 74
2. Southern Illinois – 72
T-3. Evansville – 62
T-3. Illinois State – 62
5. Norhtern Iowa – 56
6. Arkansas – Little Rock – 54