FIU Panthers Win Third Consecutive C-USA Title


It is without question that Florida International University is a team on the way up within the ranks of NCAA Division 1 swimming under the direction of C-USA Coach of the Year Randy Horner. At the 2017 Conference USA Championship, the Panther women secured their third consecutive team title by 173.5 points, taking wins in 15 events, breaking two C-USA Records along the way, and landing the first ever relay an automatic berth to the NCAA Championships.

The Panthers were led by C-USA Swimmer of the Year Kyna Pereira, who swept the 200, 500 and 1650 freestyle events with times of 1:46.16, 4:47.45 and 16:27.48 respectively.  Pereira was not alone in taking multiple individual wins for FIU, as she was joined by Jenny Deist who dominated both the 100 (53.02,) and 200 (1:57.30) butterfly events, and Letizia Bertelli who captured the 50 (22.34) and 100 (49.15) sprint freestyles.  2016 Olympian Naomi Ruele was also claimed the 100 back for the Panthers, winning the event by over a second at 52.87.

The Panther domination of the relay events was highlighted by a time trial on the first night of competition, when the team of Bertelli, Marie Lauridsen, Ruele and Deist combined to earn the Panthers’ first ever NCAA A cut for the 400 freestyle relay at 3:15.23.  That performance was good enough to crush the previous C-USA Record set by SMU in 2012, and was led off by an impressive 48.32 C-USA Record from Bertelli, which will likely earn a berth into the NCAA Championship on it’s own.

Rice University standout Marie-Claire Schillinger took ownership of the breaststroke events, taking both the 100 and 200 yard distances with 1:00.34 and 2:10.92 respectively.  Schillinger set the C-USA mark for the 100 yard event in the preliminaries, with a blazing 1:00.13.

Other notable swims and event winners include:

  • Victoria Moretti, a Florida Atlantic University freshman diver, who earned C-USA Diver of the Year by taking titles in the 1-meter (296.55) and 3-meter (317.10) springboard events.
  • Catherine Bendziewicz, a freshman from Marshall, who blazed a 28.34 final split to move up from fourth place to take the 200 IM with 1:59.29.
  • Kaitlyn Swinney, who at 4:15.82 led a 1-2 finish in the 400 IM, joined by freshman teammate Rylee Linhardt at 4:18.28.
  • Alicia Caldwell, who was joined by Jaecey Parham to complete another 1-2 sweep for Rice, with the Owls touching at 1:57.17 and 1:58.37 respectively.

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